Background: IL-33 is a recently characterized IL-1 family cytokine and found to be expressed in inflammatory diseases, including severe asthma and inflammatory bowl disease. Recombinant IL-33 has been shown to enhance Th2-associated immune responses and potently increase mast cell proliferation and cytokine production. While IL-33 is constitutively expressed in endothelial and epithelial cells, where it may function as a transcriptional regulator, cellular sources of IL-33 and its role in inflammation remain unclear.
Methodology/principal findings: Here, we identify mast cells as IL-33 producing cells. IgE/antigen activation of bone marrow-derived mast cells or a murine mast cell line (MC/9) significantly enhanced IL-33. Conversely, recombinant IL-33 directly activated mast cells to produce several cytokines including IL-4, IL-5 and IL-6 but not IL-33. We show that expression of IL-33 in response to IgE-activation required calcium and that ionomycin was sufficient to induce IL-33. In vivo, peritoneal mast cells expressed IL-33 and IL-33 levels were significantly lower within the skin of mast cell deficient mice, compared to littermate controls. Local activation of mast cells promotes edema, followed by the recruitment of inflammatory cells. We demonstrate using passive cutaneous anaphylaxis, a mast cell-dependent model, that deficiency in ST2 or antibody blockage of ST2 or IL-33 ablated the late phase inflammatory response but that the immediate phase response was unaffected. IL-33 levels in the skin were significantly elevated only during the late phase.
Conclusions/significance: Our findings demonstrate that mast cells produce IL-33 after IgE-mediated activation and that the IL-33/ST2 pathway is critical for the progression of IgE-dependent inflammation.