IL-33, a nuclear alarmin released during cell death, exerts context-specific effects on adaptive and innate immune cells, eliciting potent inflammatory responses. We screened blood, skin, and kidney tissues from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a systemic autoimmune disease driven by unabated type I IFN production, and found increased amounts of extracellular IL-33 complexed with neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), correlating with severe, active disease. Using a combination of molecular, imaging, and proteomic approaches, we show that SLE neutrophils, activated by disease immunocomplexes, release IL-33–decorated NETs that stimulate robust IFN-α synthesis by plasmacytoid DCs in a manner dependent on the IL-33 receptor ST2L. IL33-silenced neutrophil-like cells cultured under lupus-inducing conditions generated NETs with diminished interferogenic effect. Importantly, NETs derived from patients with SLE are enriched in mature bioactive isoforms of IL-33 processed by the neutrophil proteases elastase and cathepsin G. Pharmacological inhibition of these proteases neutralized IL-33–dependent IFN-α production elicited by NETs. We believe these data demonstrate a novel role for cleaved IL-33 alarmin decorating NETs in human SLE, linking neutrophil activation, type I IFN production, and end-organ inflammation, with skin pathology mirroring that observed in the kidneys.
Spiros Georgakis, Katerina Gkirtzimanaki, Garyfalia Papadaki, Hariklia Gakiopoulou, Elias Drakos, Maija-Leena Eloranta, Manousos Makridakis, Georgia Kontostathi, Jerome Zoidakis, Eirini Baira, Lars Rönnblom, Dimitrios T. Boumpas, Prodromos Sidiropoulos, Panayotis Verginis, George Bertsias