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Am J Pathol. 2008 Oct;173(4):1229-42. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2008.080014. Epub 2008 Sep 11.

Nuclear interleukin-33 is generally expressed in resting endothelium but rapidly lost upon angiogenic or proinflammatory activation.

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Laboratory for Immunology and Immunopathology, Division of Pathology, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.


Interleukin (IL)-33 is a novel member of the IL-1 family of cytokines that promotes Th2 responses in lymphocytes as well as the activation of both mast cells and eosinophils via the ST2 receptor. Additionally, IL-33 has been proposed to act as a chromatin-associated transcriptional regulator in both endothelial cells of high endothelial venules and chronically inflamed vessels. Here we show that nuclear IL-33 is expressed in blood vessels of healthy tissues but down-regulated at the earliest onset of angiogenesis during wound healing; in addition, it is almost undetectable in human tumor vessels. Accordingly, IL-33 is induced when cultured endothelial cells reach confluence and stop proliferating but is lost when these cells begin to migrate. However, IL-33 expression was not induced by inhibiting cell cycle progression in subconfluent cultures and was not prevented by antibody-mediated inhibition of VE-cadherin. Conversely, IL-33 knockdown did not induce detectable changes in either expression levels or the cellular distribution of either VE-cadherin or CD31. However, activation of endothelial cell cultures with either tumor necrosis factor-alpha or vascular endothelial growth factor and subcutaneous injection of these cytokines led to a down-regulation of vascular IL-33, a response consistent with both its rapid down-regulation in wound healing and loss in tumor endothelium. In conclusion, we speculate that the proposed transcriptional repressor function of IL-33 may be involved in the control of endothelial cell activation.

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