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Blood. 2009 Feb 12;113(7):1526-34. doi: 10.1182/blood-2008-05-157818. Epub 2008 Oct 27.

Human basophils and eosinophils are the direct target leukocytes of the novel IL-1 family member IL-33.

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Institute of Immunology, University Hospital Bern, Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland.


In mice, interleukin-18 (IL-18) regulates Th1- or Th2-type immune responses depending on the cytokine environment and effector cells involved, and the ST2-ligand, IL-33, primarily promotes an allergic phenotype. Human basophils, major players in allergic inflammation, constitutively express IL-18 receptors, while ST2 surface expression is inducible by IL-3. Unexpectedly, freshly isolated basophils are strongly activated by IL-33, but, in contrast to mouse basophils, do not respond to IL-18. IL-33 promotes IL-4, IL-13 and IL-8 secretion in synergy with IL-3 and/or FcepsilonRI-activation, and enhances FcepsilonRI-induced mediator release. These effects are similar to that of IL-3, but the signaling pathways engaged are distinct because IL-33 strongly activates NF-kappaB and shows a preference for p38 MAP-kinase, while IL-3 acts through Jak/Stat and preferentially activates ERK. Eosinophils are the only other leukocyte-type directly activated by IL-33, as evidenced by screening of p38-activation in peripheral blood cells. Only upon CD3/CD28-ligation, IL-33 weakly enhances Th2 cytokine expression by in vivo polarized Th2 cells. This study on primary human cells demonstrates that basophils and eosinophils are the only direct target leukocytes for IL-33, suggesting that IL-33 promotes allergic inflammation and Th2 polarization mainly by the selective activation of these specialized cells of the innate immune system.

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