Objective: Interleukin (IL)-33 is a nuclear protein that is released from stressed or damaged cells to act as an alarmin. We investigated the effects of IL-33 on endothelial cells, using the prototype IL-1 family member, IL-1β, as a reference.
Methods and results: Human umbilical vein endothelial cells were stimulated with IL-33 or IL-1β, showing highly similar phosphorylation of signaling molecules, induction of adhesion molecules, and transcription profiles. However, intradermally injected IL-33 elicited significantly less proinflammatory endothelial activation when compared with IL-1β and led us to observe that quiescent endothelial cells (ppRb(low)p27(high)) were strikingly resistant to IL-33. Accordingly, the IL-33 receptor was preferentially expressed in nonquiescent cells of low-density cultures, corresponding to selective induction of adhesion molecules and chemokines. Multiparameter phosphoflow cytometry confirmed that signaling driven by IL-33 was stronger in nonquiescent cells. Manipulation of nuclear IL-33 expression by siRNA or adenoviral transduction revealed no functional link between nuclear, endogenous IL-33, and exogenous IL-33 responsiveness.
Conclusions: In contrast to other inflammatory cytokines, IL-33 selectively targets nonquiescent endothelial cells. By this novel concept, quiescent cells may remain nonresponsive to a proinflammatory stimulus that concomitantly triggers a powerful response in cells that have been released from contact inhibition.