Extracellular and nuclear roles of IL-37 after spinal cord injury

Jesus Amo-Aparicio, Alba Sanchez-Fernandez, Suzhao Li, Elan Z. Eisenmesser, Cecilia Garlanda, Charles A. Dinarello, Ruben Lopez-Vales*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
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Interleukin 37 (IL-37) is an anti-inflammatory cytokine of the interleukin 1 family. Transgenic mice expressing the human form of the IL37 gene (hIL-37Tg) display protective effects in several animal models of disease. Previous data from our group revealed that IL-37 limits inflammation after spinal cord injury (SCI) and ameliorates tissue damage and functional deficits. IL-37 can exert its anti-inflammatory effects by translocating to the nucleus or acting as an extracellular cytokine. However, whether this protection after SCI is mediated by translocating to the nucleus, activating of extracellular receptors, or both, is currently unknown. In the present study, we used different transgenic animals to answer this question. We demonstrated that the beneficial effects of IL-37 on functional and histological outcomes after SCI were lost in the lack of the extracellular receptor IL-1R8, indicating that IL-37 induces protection as an extracellular cytokine. On the other hand, transgenic mice with the nuclear function of IL-37 abolished (hIL-37D20ATg) showed significant improvement in locomotor skills and myelin sparing after SCI, indicating that nuclear pathway is not required for the protective actions of IL-37. Moreover, we also showed that the therapeutic effects of the recombinant IL-37 protein are produced only in the presence of the extracellular receptor IL-1R8, further highlighting the importance of the extracellular function of this cytokine after SCI. Finally, we revealed that the administration of recombinant IL-37 protein exerted therapeutic actions when administered in the lesion site but not systemically. This work demonstrated for the first time that translocation of IL-37 to the nucleus is not required for the beneficial actions of this cytokine after SCI and highlights the importance of the extracellular signaling of IL-37 to mediate neuroprotective actions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-201
Number of pages8
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • IL-1R8
  • Inflammation
  • Interleukin 37
  • Neuroprotection
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Treatment


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