Human recombinant interleukin-38 suppresses inflammation in mouse models of local and systemic disease

Cytokine. 2021 Jan;137:155334. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2020.155334. Epub 2020 Oct 28.


Interleukin (IL)-38 belongs to the IL-1 family and is part of the IL-36 subfamily due to its binding to the IL-36 Receptor (IL-1R6). In the current study, we assessed the anti-inflammatory properties of IL-38 in murine models of arthritis and systemic inflammation. First, the anti-inflammatory properties of mouse and human IL-38 precursors were compared to forms with a truncated N-terminus. In mouse bone marrow derived dendritic cells (BMDC), human and mouse IL-38 precursors with a truncation of the two N-terminal amino acids (3-152) suppressed LPS-induced IL-6. Recombinant human IL-38 (3-152) was further investigated for its immunomodulatory potential using four murine models of inflammatory disease: streptococcal cell wall (SCW)-induced arthritis, monosodium urate (MSU) crystal-induced arthritis, MSU crystal-induced peritonitis, and systemic endotoxemia. In each of these models IL-38 significantly reduced inflammation. In SCW and MSU crystal-induced arthritis, joint swelling, inflammatory cell influx, and synovial levels of IL-1β, IL-6, and KC were reduced by 50% or greater. These suppressive properties of IL-38 in SCW-induced arthritis were independent of the anti-inflammatory co-receptor IL-1R8, as IL-38 reduced arthritis equally in IL-1R8 deficient and WT mice. In MSU crystal-induced peritonitis, IL-38 reduced hypothermia, while plasma IL-6 and KC and peritoneal KC levels were reduced by 65-70%. In the LPS endotoxemia model, IL-38 pretreatment reduced systemic IL-6, TNFα and KC. Furthermore, in ex vivo cultured bone marrow, LPS-induced IL-6, TNFα and KC were reduced by 75-90%. Overall, IL-38 exhibits broad anti-inflammatory properties in models of systemic and local inflammation and therefore may be an effective cytokine therapy.

Keywords: IL–1 family; Inflammation; Interleukin–38; Pathogenesis.

Publication types

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