IL-13 is a potent down-modulator of macrophage proinflammatory activity in vitro, similar in this context to the anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-4 and IL-10. Since IL-10 effectively confers protection to mice from LPS-induced lethal endotoxemia through inhibition of proinflammatory cytokine production, we investigated whether IL-13 may also be capable of providing protection in this experimental model of endotoxic shock. A single injection of recombinant murine IL-13 (rmIL-13; 0.5-10 microg) significantly increased survival in a dose-dependent manner when a lethal i.p. injection of endotoxin was administered to BALB/c mice. This effect appeared to be IL-13 specific, since survival was not affected in mice that received heat-inactivated rmIL-13. rmIL-13 provided significant protection to mice even when given 30 min after LPS injection; however, this protection decreased in a time-dependent manner as the administration of rmIL-13 was delayed by 1, 2, and 5 h following LPS injection. The protective effect of IL-13 was correlated with significant decreases in the production of the inflammatory mediators TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, and IL-12 as well as a decrease in the anti-inflammatory mediator IL-10. Our data suggest that IL-13 provides protection from LPS-induced lethal endotoxemia in a manner that is similar to but independent from that of IL-10, and therefore can be added to the list of cytokine immunomodulators that might be beneficial in the treatment of septic shock.

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