Graft IL-33 regulates infiltrating macrophages to protect against chronic rejection

J Clin Invest. 2020 Oct 1;130(10):5397-5412. doi: 10.1172/JCI133008.


Alarmins, sequestered self-molecules containing damage-associated molecular patterns, are released during tissue injury to drive innate immune cell proinflammatory responses. Whether endogenous negative regulators controlling early immune responses are also released at the site of injury is poorly understood. Herein, we establish that the stromal cell-derived alarmin interleukin 33 (IL-33) is a local factor that directly restricts the proinflammatory capacity of graft-infiltrating macrophages early after transplantation. By assessing heart transplant recipient samples and using a mouse heart transplant model, we establish that IL-33 is upregulated in allografts to limit chronic rejection. Mouse cardiac transplants lacking IL-33 displayed dramatically accelerated vascular occlusion and subsequent fibrosis, which was not due to altered systemic immune responses. Instead, a lack of graft IL-33 caused local augmentation of proinflammatory iNOS+ macrophages that accelerated graft loss. IL-33 facilitated a metabolic program in macrophages associated with reparative and regulatory functions, and local delivery of IL-33 prevented the chronic rejection of IL-33-deficient cardiac transplants. Therefore, IL-33 represents what we believe is a novel regulatory alarmin in transplantation that limits chronic rejection by restraining the local activation of proinflammatory macrophages. The local delivery of IL-33 in extracellular matrix-based materials may be a promising biologic for chronic rejection prophylaxis.

Keywords: Immunology; Immunotherapy; Macrophages; Organ transplantation; Transplantation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alarmins / immunology
  • Allografts
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Graft Rejection / etiology
  • Graft Rejection / immunology*
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control*
  • Graft Survival / immunology
  • Heart Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-33 / administration & dosage
  • Interleukin-33 / deficiency
  • Interleukin-33 / genetics
  • Interleukin-33 / immunology*
  • Macrophage Activation / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Myocardium / immunology
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Up-Regulation


  • Alarmins
  • IL33 protein, human
  • Il33 protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-33