Interleukin-33 (IL-33) is a recently described member of the IL-1 family of cytokines, which was identified as a ligand for the ST2 receptor. Components of the IL-33/ST2 system were shown to be expressed in normal and pressure overloaded human myocardium, and soluble ST2 (sST2) has emerged as a prognostic biomarker in myocardial infarction and heart failure. However, expression and regulation of IL-33 in human adult cardiac myocytes and fibroblasts was not tested before. In this study we found that primary human adult cardiac fibroblasts (HACF) and human adult cardiac myocytes (HACM) constitutively express nuclear IL-33 that is released during cell necrosis. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interferon (IFN)-γ and IL-1β significantly increased both IL-33 protein and IL-33 mRNA expression in HACF and HACM as well as in human coronary artery smooth muscle cells (HCASMC). The nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) inhibitor dimethylfumarate inhibited TNF-α- and IL-1β-induced IL-33 production as well as nuclear translocation of p50 and p65 NF-κB subunits in these cells. Mitogen-activated protein/extracellular signal-regulated kinase inhibitor U0126 abrogated TNF-α-, IFN-γ-, and IL-1β-induced and Janus-activated kinase inhibitor I reduced IFN-γ-induced IL-33 production. We detected IL-33 mRNA in human myocardial tissue from patients undergoing heart transplantation (n = 27) where IL-33 mRNA levels statistically significant correlated with IFN-γ (r = 0.591, p = 0.001) and TNF-α (r = 0.408, p = 0.035) mRNA expression. Endothelial cells in human heart expressed IL-33 as well as ST2 protein. We also reveal that human cardiac and vascular cells have different distribution patterns of ST2 isoforms (sST2 and transmembrane ST2L) mRNA expression and produce different amounts of sST2 protein. Both human macrovascular (aortic and coronary artery) and heart microvascular endothelial cells express specific mRNA for both ST2 isoforms (ST2L and sST2) and are a source for sST2 protein, whereas cardiac myocytes, cardiac fibroblasts and vascular SMC express only minor amounts of ST2 mRNA and do not secrete detectable amounts of sST2 antigen. In accordance with the cellular distribution of ST2 receptor, human cardiac fibroblasts and myocytes as well as HCASMC did not respond to treatment with IL-33, as recombinant human IL-33 did not induce NF-κB p50 and p65 subunits nuclear translocation or increase IL-6, IL-8, and monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP-1) level in HACF, HACM and HCASMC. In summary, we found that endothelial cells seem to be the source of sST2 and the target for IL-33 in the cardiovascular system. IL-33 is expressed in the nucleus of human adult cardiac fibroblasts and myocytes and released during necrosis. Proinflammatory cytokines TNF-α, IFN-γ and IL-1β increase IL-33 in these cells in vitro, and IL-33 mRNA levels correlated with TNF-α and IFN-γ mRNA expression in human myocardial tissue.
•IL-33 is in nucleus of cardiac myocytes, cardiac fibroblasts and smooth muscle cells.•TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-1β increase IL-33 expression in these cells.•IL-33 is released during necrosis by these cells.•Endothelial cells in myocardial tissue predominantly express IL-33 and ST2.•Endothelial cells express the IL-33 receptor ST2 and secrete soluble ST2.