Short-term interleukin-37 treatment improves vascular endothelial function, endurance exercise capacity, and whole-body glucose metabolism in old mice

Aging Cell. 2020 Jan;19(1):e13074. doi: 10.1111/acel.13074. Epub 2019 Nov 21.


Aging is associated with vascular endothelial dysfunction, reduced exercise tolerance, and impaired whole-body glucose metabolism. Interleukin-37 (IL-37), an anti-inflammatory cytokine of the interleukin-1 family, exerts salutary physiological effects in young mice independent of its inflammation-suppressing properties. Here, we assess the efficacy of IL-37 treatment for improving physiological function in older age. Old mice (26-28 months) received daily intraperitoneal injections of recombinant human IL-37 (recIL-37; 1 µg/200 ml PBS) or vehicle (200 ml PBS) for 10-14 days. Vascular endothelial function (ex vivo carotid artery dilation to increasing doses of acetylcholine, ACh) was enhanced in recIL-37 vs. vehicle-treated mice via increased nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability (all p < .05); this effect was accompanied by enhanced ACh-stimulated NO production and reduced levels of reactive oxygen species in endothelial cells cultured with plasma from IL-37-treated animals (p < .05 vs. vehicle plasma). RecIL-37 treatment increased endurance exercise capacity by 2.4-fold, which was accompanied by a 2.9-fold increase in the phosphorylated AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) to AMPK ratio (i.e., AMPK activation) in quadriceps muscle. RecIL-37 treatment also improved whole-body insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance (p < .05 vs. vehicle). Improvements in physiological function occurred without significant changes in plasma, aortic, and skeletal muscle pro-inflammatory proteins (under resting conditions), whereas pro-/anti-inflammatory IL-6 was greater in recIL-37-treated animals. Plasma metabolomics analysis revealed that recIL-37 treatment altered metabolites related to pathways involved in NO synthesis (e.g., increased L-arginine and citrulline/arginine ratio) and fatty acid metabolism (e.g., increased pantothenol and free fatty acids). Our findings provide experimental support for IL-37 therapy as a novel strategy to improve diverse physiological functions in old age.

Keywords: AMP-activated kinase; aging; anti-inflammatory; oxidative stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Exercise Tolerance / drug effects*
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 / pharmacology
  • Interleukin-1 / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Mice


  • IL37 protein, human
  • Interleukin-1
  • Glucose