IL-37 inhibits the production of inflammatory cytokines in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus: its correlation with disease activity

J Transl Med. 2014 Mar 16;12:69. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-12-69.


Background: Interleukin-37 (IL-37), a new member of IL-1 family cytokine, is recently identified as a natural inhibitor of innate immunity. This study aimed to measure the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and serum levels of IL-37 in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and to investigate its role in SLE, including its correlation with disease activity, organ disorder and the regulation of inflammatory cytokines.

Methods: The expressions of IL-37 mRNAs in PBMCs and serum IL-37 levels in 66 SLE patients were measured by real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). SLE patients PBMCs were stimulated with recombinant IL-37, levels of cytokines TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6 and IL-10 were detected by RT-PCR and ELISA.

Results: IL-37 mRNAs and serum protein levels were higher in patients with SLE compared with healthy controls. Patients with active disease showed higher IL-37 mRNAs and serum protein levels compared with those with inactive disease as well as healthy controls. Serum IL-37 levels correlated with SLEDAI and inversely with C3 and C4. Serum IL-37 levels were higher in SLE patients with renal involvement compared with those without renal disease. In vitro, IL-37 inhibited the production of TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6 in PBMCs of patients with SLE, whereas the production of IL-10 was unaffected.

Conclusions: IL-37 associated with SLE disease activity, especially related with SLE renal disease activity. IL-37 is an important cytokine in the control of SLE pathogenesis by suppressing the production of inflammatory cytokines. Thus, IL-37 may provide a novel research target for the pathogenesis and therapy of SLE.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Demography
  • Disease Progression*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / blood*
  • Interleukin-1 / blood*
  • Interleukin-1 / genetics
  • Kidney / drug effects
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / genetics
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / pharmacology
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • IL37 protein, human
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-1
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins