Low Interleukin-22 Binding Protein Is Associated With High Mortality in Alcoholic Hepatitis and Modulates Interleukin-22 Receptor Expression

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INTRODUCTION: In alcoholic hepatitis (AH), high interleukin (IL)-22 production is associated with disease improvement, purportedly through enhanced infection resistance and liver regeneration. IL-22 binding protein (BP) binds and antagonizes IL-22 bioactivity, but data on IL-22BP in liver disease suggest a complex interplay. Despite the scarcity of human data, IL-22 is in clinical trial as treatment of AH. We, therefore, in patients with AH, described the IL-22 system focusing on IL-22BP and associations with disease course, and mechanistically pursued the human associations in vitro.

METHODS: We prospectively studied 41 consecutive patients with AH at diagnosis, days 7 and 90, and followed them for up to 1 year. We measured IL-22 pathway proteins in liver biopsies and blood and investigated IL-22BP effects on IL-22 in hepatocyte cultures.

RESULTS: IL-22BP was produced in the gut and was identifiable in the patients with AH' livers. Plasma IL-22BP was only 50% of controls and the IL-22/IL-22BP ratio thus elevated. Consistently, IL-22-inducible genes were upregulated in AH livers at diagnosis. Low plasma IL-22BP was closely associated with high 1-year mortality. In vitro, IL-22 stimulation reduced IL-22 receptor (R) expression, but coincubation with IL-22BP sustained IL-22R expression. In the AH livers, IL-22R mRNA expression was similar to healthy livers, although IL-22R liver protein was higher at diagnosis.

DISCUSSION: Plasma IL-22BP was associated with an adverse disease course, possibly because its low level reduces IL-22R expression so that IL-22 bioactivity was reduced. This suggests the IL-BP interplay to be central in AH pathogenesis, and in future treatment trials (see Visual abstract, Supplementary Digital Content 5, http://links.lww.com/CTG/A338).

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical and Translational Gastroenterology
Pages (from-to)e00197
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020

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