Current Allergy and Asthma Reports

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 415–420 | Cite as

Role of Interleukin-13 in Asthma

  • Jonathan Corren


Interleukin-13 is a pleiotropic TH2 cytokine that has been shown to be central to the pathogenesis of asthma. Some of the most prominent of the effects of IL-13 include increases in goblet cell differentiation, activation of fibroblasts, elevation of bronchial hyperresponsiveness, and switching of B cell antibody production from IgM to IgE. The relevances of these effects to asthma have been carefully studied in both animal models and more recently in human studies. As the role of IL-13 in asthma has become more defined, a number of potential biomarkers for TH2 airway inflammation, and hence IL-13 activity, have been identified, including blood and sputum eosinophils, total serum IgE, proteins derived from the bronchial epithelium (e.g., serum periostin), and exhaled nitric oxide. Most importantly, many of these markers for TH2 inflammation are strong predictors for positive responses to inhaled corticosteroid treatment. These biomarkers may also be useful in identifying patients who are most likely to benefit from specific IL-13 antagonism, as was demonstrated in a recent clinical trial of anti-IL-13 antibody therapy (lebrikizumab) in patients with poorly controlled asthma despite using inhaled corticosteroids. In that study, significant improvements in FEV1 were observed in patients with elevations of serum periostin but not in patients with normal periostin levels. These data indicate that IL-13 antagonists may fulfill an important unmet need in patients with poorly controlled asthma and biologic evidence of persistent IL-13 activity.


Interleukin-13 Cytokine Asthma TH2 Eosinophils Phenotype Airway inflammation Exhaled nitric oxide Biomarkers Therapy 


Compliance with Ethics Guidelines

Conflict of Interest

Jonathan Corren declares that he has the following conflicts of interest: Consultant, speaker, and recipient of research funding form Genentech. Consultant and recipient of research funding from Sanofi, Regeneron, and Medimmune.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with animal subjects performed by the author. With regard to the author’s research cited in this paper, all procedures were followed in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 and 2008.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Section of Clinical Immunology and AllergyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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