Aims: Interleukin-22 (IL-22) has beneficial effects on body weight, insulin resistance and inflammation in different mouse models, but its relevance for the development of type 2 diabetes in humans is unknown. We aimed to identify correlates of serum IL-22 levels and to test the hypothesis that higher IL-22 levels are associated with lower diabetes incidence.
Methods: Cross-sectional associations between serum IL-22, cardiometabolic risk factors and glucose tolerance status were investigated in 1107 persons of the population-based KORA F4 study. The prospective association between serum IL-22 and incident type 2 diabetes was assessed in 504 initially non-diabetic study participants in both the KORA F4 study and its 7-year follow-up examination KORA FF4, 76 of whom developed diabetes.
Results: Male sex, current smoking, lower HDL cholesterol, lower estimated glomerular filtration rate and higher serum interleukin-1 receptor antagonist were associated with higher IL-22 levels after adjustment for confounders (all P < 0.05). Serum IL-22 showed no associations with glucose tolerance status, prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Baseline serum IL-22 levels (median, 25th/75th percentiles) for incident type 2 diabetes cases and non-cases were 6.28 (1.95; 12.35) and 6.45 (1.95; 11.80) pg/ml, respectively (age and sex-adjusted P = 0.744). The age and sex-adjusted OR (95% CI) per doubling of IL-22 for incident type 2 diabetes of 1.02 (0.85; 1.23) was almost unchanged after consideration of further confounders.
Conclusions: High serum levels of IL-22 were positively rather than inversely associated with several cardiometabolic risk factors. However, these associations did not translate into an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Thus, our data argue against the utility of IL-22 as biomarker for prevalent or incident type 2 diabetes in humans, but identify potential determinants of IL-22 levels which merits further research in the context of cardiovascular diseases.
Keywords: Cardiometabolic risk; Cohort study; Cytokine; Inflammation; Interleukin-22; Type 2 diabetes.