Ablation of IL-33 Suppresses Th2 Responses but Is Accompanied by Sustained Mucus Obstruction in the Scnn1b Transgenic Mouse Model

J Immunol. 2020 Mar 15;204(6):1650-1660. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1900234. Epub 2020 Feb 14.


Cystic fibrosis is characterized by dehydration of the airway surface liquid layer with persistent mucus obstruction. Th2 immune responses are often manifested as increased mucous cell density (mucous cell metaplasia) associated with mucus obstruction. IL-33 is a known inducer of Th2 immune responses, but its roles in mucus obstruction and related phenotypes in a cystic fibrosis-like lung disease model (i.e., Scnn1b-Tg-positive [Tg+]) mouse, remain unclear. Accordingly, IL-33 knockout (IL-33KO) Tg+ mice were examined and compared with IL-33 heterozygous (IL-33HET) Tg+ mice. As compared with IL-33HET/Tg+ mice, IL-33KO/Tg+ mice had complete absence of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid eosinophilia, accompanied with significant reduction in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid concentration of IL-5, a cytokine associated with eosinophil differentiation and recruitment, and IL-4, a major Th2 cytokine. As compared with IL-33HET/Tg+ mice, IL-33KO/Tg+ mice had significantly reduced levels of Th2-associated gene signatures (Slc26a4, Clca1, Retnla, and Chi3l4), along with complete loss of intracellular mucopolysaccharide staining in the airway epithelium. As compared with IL-33HET/Tg+ mice, although the IL-33KO/Tg+ mice had significantly reduced levels of MUC5AC protein expression, they showed no reduction in the degree of mucus obstruction, MUC5B protein expression, bacterial burden, and neonatal mortality. Interestingly, the histological features, including subepithelial airway inflammation and alveolar space enlargement, were somewhat exaggerated in IL-33KO/Tg+ mice compared with IL-33HET/Tg+ mice. Taken together, our data indicate that although IL-33 modulates Th2 inflammatory responses and MUC5AC protein production, mucus obstruction is not dependent on IL-33.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / immunology
  • Cystic Fibrosis / diagnosis
  • Cystic Fibrosis / genetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis / immunology*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Eosinophils / immunology
  • Eosinophils / metabolism
  • Epithelial Sodium Channels / genetics
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-33 / genetics
  • Interleukin-33 / metabolism*
  • Lung / cytology
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mucin 5AC / metabolism*
  • Mucus / immunology
  • Mucus / metabolism
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / metabolism


  • Epithelial Sodium Channels
  • Il33 protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-33
  • Muc5ac protein, mouse
  • Mucin 5AC
  • Scnn1b protein, mouse