Publications & Posters

Short-term interleukin-37 treatment improves vascular endothelial function, endurance exercise capacity, and whole-body glucose metabolism in old mice

Aging Cell | November 21, 2019

Ballak DB, Brunt VE, Sapinsley ZJ, Ziemba BP, Richey JJ, Zigler MC, Johnson LC, Gioscia-Ryan RA, Culp-Hill R, Eisenmesser EZ, D’Alessandro A, Dinarello CA and Seals DR

Aging Cell. 2020;19:e13074

DOI: 10.1111/acel.13074


Aging is associated with vascular endothelial dysfunction, reduced exercise tolerance, and impaired whole-body glucose metabolism. Interleukin-37 (IL-37), an anti-inflammatory cytokine of the interleukin-1 family, exerts salutary physiological effects in young mice independent of its inflammation-suppressing properties. Here, we assess the efficacy of IL-37 treatment for improving physiological function in older age. Old mice (26–28 months) received daily intraperitoneal injections of recombinant human IL-37 (recIL-37; 1 µg/200 ml PBS) or vehicle (200 ml PBS) for 10–14 days. Vascular endothelial function (ex vivo carotid artery dilation to increasing doses of acetylcholine, ACh) was enhanced in recIL-37 vs. vehicle-treated mice via increased nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability (all p < .05); this effect was accompanied by enhanced ACh-stimulated NO production and reduced levels of reactive oxygen species in endothelial cells cultured with plasma from IL-37-treated animals (p < .05 vs. vehicle plasma). RecIL-37 treatment increased endurance exercise capacity by 2.4-fold, which was accompanied by a 2.9-fold increase in the phosphorylated AMP-activated kinase (AMPK) to AMPK ratio (i.e., AMPK activation) in quadriceps muscle. RecIL-37 treatment also improved whole-body insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance (p < .05 vs. vehicle). Improvements in physiological function occurred without significant changes in plasma, aortic, and skeletal muscle pro-inflammatory proteins (under resting conditions), whereas pro-/anti-inflammatory IL-6 was greater in recIL-37-treated animals. Plasma metabolomics analysis revealed that recIL-37 treatment altered metabolites related to pathways involved in NO synthesis (e.g., increased L-arginine and citrulline/arginine ratio) and fatty acid metabolism (e.g., increased pantothenol and free fatty acids). Our findings provide experimental support for IL-37 therapy as a novel strategy to improve diverse physiological functions in old age.