Intracellular mature IL-37 suppresses tumor metastasis via inhibiting Rac1 activation

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IL-37, a newly found anti-inflammatory cytokine of the IL-1 family, has both extracellular and intracellular functions. Accumulating evidences indicate that it is also involved in tumor progression. However, the mechanism and its intracellular target are unclear. In this study, clinical data from 84 patients showed that loss or reduced expression of IL-37 in lung adenocarcinoma tissues was significantly associated with tumor metastasis. We further provided evidence that IL-37 inhibited effectively tumor metastasis in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, we uncovered a novel mechanism by which IL-37 suppressed tumor cell migration via its intracellular mature form (amino acids 46-218). Intracellular mature form of IL-37, but not its extracellular form, markedly inhibited migration of multiple kinds of tumor cells through inhibiting Rac1 activation. Mechanistically, intracellular mature IL-37 directly bound to the CAAX motif in the C-terminal hypervariable region of Rac1, and then inhibited Rac1 membrane translocation and subsequent downstream signaling. Our research identifies intracellular mature IL-37 as a novel endogenous inhibitor of Rac1. Given the crucial roles of Rac1 in tumor angiogenesis and metastasis, intracellular mature IL-37 might serve as a potential strategy for the control of Rac1 activity and tumor progression.

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