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J Biol Chem. 2012 Feb 24;287(9):6941-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.298703. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

Interleukin 33 as a mechanically responsive cytokine secreted by living cells.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Cardiovascular Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Interleukin 33 (IL-33), a member of the Interleukin 1 cytokine family, is implicated in numerous human inflammatory diseases such as asthma, atherosclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Despite its pathophysiologic importance, fundamental questions regarding the basic biology of IL-33 remain. Nuclear localization and lack of an export signal sequence are consistent with the view of IL-33 as a nuclear factor with the ability to repress RNA transcription. However, signaling via the transmembrane receptor ST2 and documented caspase-dependent inactivation have suggested IL-33 is liberated during cellular necrosis to effect paracrine signaling. We determined the subcellular localization of IL-33 and tracked its intracellular mobility and extracellular release. In contrast to published data, IL-33 localized simultaneously to nuclear euchromatin and membrane-bound cytoplasmic vesicles. Fluorescent pulse-chase fate-tracking documented dynamic nucleo-cytoplasmic flux, which was dependent on nuclear pore complex function. In murine fibroblasts in vitro and in vivo, mechanical strain induced IL-33 secretion in the absence of cellular necrosis. These data document IL-33 dynamic inter-organelle trafficking and release during biomechanical overload. As such we recharacterize IL-33 as both an inflammatory as well as mechanically responsive cytokine secreted by living cells.

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