Disruption of the IL-33-ST2-AKT signaling axis impairs neurodevelopment by inhibiting microglial metabolic adaptation and phagocytic function

Immunity. 2022 Jan 11;55(1):159-173.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2021.12.001. Epub 2022 Jan 3.


To accommodate the changing needs of the developing brain, microglia must undergo substantial morphological, phenotypic, and functional reprogramming. Here, we examined whether cellular metabolism regulates microglial function during neurodevelopment. Microglial mitochondria bioenergetics correlated with and were functionally coupled to phagocytic activity in the developing brain. Transcriptional profiling of microglia with diverse metabolic profiles revealed an activation signature wherein the interleukin (IL)-33 signaling axis is associated with phagocytic activity. Genetic perturbation of IL-33 or its receptor ST2 led to microglial dystrophy, impaired synaptic function, and behavioral abnormalities. Conditional deletion of Il33 from astrocytes or Il1rl1, encoding ST2, in microglia increased susceptibility to seizures. Mechanistically, IL-33 promoted mitochondrial activity and phagocytosis in an AKT-dependent manner. Mitochondrial metabolism and AKT activity were temporally regulated in vivo. Thus, a microglia-astrocyte circuit mediated by the IL-33-ST2-AKT signaling axis supports microglial metabolic adaptation and phagocytic function during early development, with implications for neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Keywords: IL-33; bioenergenetics; microglia; neurodevelopment; phagocytosis; seizure; synapse.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Electrical Synapses / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1 Receptor-Like 1 Protein / genetics
  • Interleukin-1 Receptor-Like 1 Protein / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-33 / genetics
  • Interleukin-33 / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Neurogenesis / genetics
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis
  • Seizures / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Il1rl1 protein, mouse
  • Il33 protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-1 Receptor-Like 1 Protein
  • Interleukin-33
  • Oncogene Protein v-akt