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Immunity. 2009 Jul 17;31(1):84-98. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2009.05.007. Epub 2009 Jun 25.

Suppression of interleukin-33 bioactivity through proteolysis by apoptotic caspases.

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  • 1Molecular Cell Biology Laboratory, Department of Genetics, The Smurfit Institute, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland.


Interleukin-33 (IL-33) is a member of the IL-1 family and is involved in polarization of T cells toward a T helper 2 (Th2) cell phenotype. IL-33 is thought to be activated via caspase-1-dependent proteolysis, similar to the proinflammatory cytokines IL-1 beta and IL-18, but this remains unproven. Here we showed that IL-33 was processed by caspases activated during apoptosis (caspase-3 and -7) but was not a physiological substrate for caspases associated with inflammation (caspase-1, -4, and -5). Furthermore, caspase-dependent processing of IL-33 was not required for ST2 receptor binding or ST2-dependent activation of the NF-kappaB transcription factor. Indeed, caspase-dependent proteolysis of IL-33 dramatically attenuated IL-33 bioactivity in vitro and in vivo. These data suggest that IL-33 does not require proteolysis for activation, but rather, that IL-33 bioactivity is diminished through caspase-dependent proteolysis within apoptotic cells. Thus, caspase-mediated proteolysis acts as a switch to dampen the proinflammatory properties of IL-33.

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