Objectives: The function of interleukin (IL)-37 has not been resolved. We recently showed that IL-37 suppresses colonic inflammation in mice. To gain more insight into its relevance in human disease, we investigated the expression of IL-37 in the intestine of pediatric patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Methods: Intestinal biopsies were obtained from children with IBD (18 Crohn disease [CD], 14 ulcerative colitis [UC] and 11 controls) during endoscopy and analyzed for IL-37 expression by immunohistochemistry and real-time polymerase chain reaction. Results were correlated with immunostaining for IL-18 and IL-17, messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, and clinical parameters.
Results: IL-37 protein was detected in epithelial cells and submucosal lymphoid cells of patients with CD and UC as well as healthy controls. IL-37 protein expression tended to be higher with submucosal lymphoid cell infiltration of patients with CD and UC and correlated with histological severity score of inflammation. IL-18 showed a staining pattern similar to that of IL-37, whereas staining for IL-17 revealed distinct positive cells scattered in the submucosal layer. mRNA expression of IL-8, IL-17, and IL-10 was upregulated in patients with CD and UC. mRNA levels of IL-18 and IL-37 were not significantly elevated compared with controls. Levels of IL-37 and IL-18 mRNA showed a positive correlation in the CD group.
Conclusions: IL-37 protein is expressed in healthy and diseased bowel tissue. IL-37 and IL-18 show a similar expression pattern and correlate at mRNA levels. Future studies are warranted to delineate the specific contribution of IL-37 to modulate chronic bowel inflammation in humans.