The role and transformative potential of IL-19 in atherosclerosis

Cytokine Growth Factor Rev. 2021 Dec:62:70-82. doi: 10.1016/j.cytogfr.2021.09.001. Epub 2021 Sep 21.


Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Traditionally, IL-19 was thought to be expressed in only immune cells, but studies revealed that IL-19 is also expressed in multiple atherosclerotic plaque cell types, but not normal arteries, in humans and mice. IL-19 reduces the development of atherosclerosis via multiple mechanisms, including balancing cholesterol metabolism; enhancing Th2 immune cell polarization; reducing the inflammatory response; and reducing the proliferation, migration and chemotaxis of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). Clinical and/or animal studies have primarily aimed to achieve regression and/or stabilization of atherosclerotic plaques, with regression in particular indicating a very good drug response. Most antiatherosclerotic drugs in current clinical use, including atorvastatin and alirocumab, target hyperlipidemia. Several other drugs have also been investigated in clinical trials as anti-inflammatory agents; the development of some of these agents has been terminated (canakinumab, darapladib, varespladib, losmapimod, atreleuton, setileuton, PF-04191834, veliflapon, and methotrexate), but others remain in development (ziltivekimab, tocilizumab, Somalix, IFM-2427, anakinra, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), colchicine, everolimus, allopurinol, and montelukast). Most of the tested drugs have shown a limited ability to reverse atherosclerosis in animal studies. Interestingly, recombinant IL-19 (rIL-19) was shown to reduce atherosclerosis development in a time- and dose-dependent manner. A low dose of rIL-19 (1 ng/g/day) reduced aortic arch and root plaque areas by 70.1% and 32.1%, respectively, in LDLR-/- mice. At 10 ng/g/day, rIL-19 completely eliminated atherosclerotic plaques. There were no sex differences in the effects of rIL-19 on atherosclerotic mice. Thus, low-dose rIL-19 is an effective antiatherosclerotic agent, in addition to its efficacy in intimal hyperplasia, spinal cord injury, stroke, and multiple sclerosis. We propose that IL-19 is a promising biomarker and target for the diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis. This review considers the role and mechanism of action of IL-19 in atherosclerosis and discusses whether IL-19 is a potential therapeutic target for this condition.

Keywords: Analysis of preclinical studies; Atherosclerosis; Drug; IL-19; Inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Atherosclerosis* / drug therapy
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Mice
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic* / drug therapy
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • ziltivekimab