Interleukin 36α Attenuates Sepsis by Enhancing Antibacterial Functions of Macrophages

J Infect Dis. 2017 Jan 15;215(2):321-332. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiw535.


Background: Sepsis is newly defined as life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to infection with a high mortality rate and limited effective treatments. The role of interleukin 36α (IL-36α) in host response during sepsis remains unknown.

Methods: An experimental sepsis model of cecal ligation and puncture was established to investigate the effects of IL-36α on host response to sepsis.

Results: IL-36α production was significantly up-regulated during sepsis. IL-36α treatment reduced the mortality rate in mice with severe sepsis by cecal ligation and puncture. IL-36α-treated mice had more efficient bacterial clearance, inhibited tissue inflammation, improved organ injury, and reduced immune cell apoptosis. The therapeutic implication of these observations was also highlighted by the finding that specific blockade of IL-36α led to an increased mortality rate in mice with nonsevere sepsis. Furthermore, we found that IL-36α enhanced bacterial phagocytosis and killing by macrophages, thereby allowing local and systemic bacterial clearance. Importantly, macrophage depletion before the onset of sepsis eliminated IL-36α-mediated protection against sepsis.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that IL-36α plays an important role in the host defense response to sepsis and suggest a potential therapeutic role for IL-36α in sepsis.

Keywords: IL-36α; immunity; infection; macrophage; sepsis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Interleukin-1 / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Sepsis / immunology*
  • Sepsis / pathology*


  • Interleukin-1
  • interleukin-36, mouse