Although interleukin-18 is structurally homologous to IL-1 and its receptor belongs to the IL-1R/Toll-like receptor (TLR) superfamily, its function is quite different from that of IL-1. IL-18 is produced not only by types of immune cells but also by non-immune cells. In collaboration with IL-12, IL-18 stimulates Th1-mediated immune responses, which play a critical role in the host defense against infection with intracellular microbes through the induction of IFN-γ. However, the overproduction of IL-12 and IL-18 induces severe inflammatory disorders, suggesting that IL-18 is a potent proinflammatory cytokine that has pathophysiological roles in several inflammatory conditions. IL-18 mRNA is expressed in a wide range of cells including Kupffer cells, macrophages, T cells, B cells, dendritic cells, osteoblasts, keratinocytes, astrocytes, and microglias. Thus, the pathophysiological role of IL-18 has been extensively tested in the organs that contain these cells. Somewhat surprisingly, IL-18 alone can stimulate Th2 cytokine production as well as allergic inflammation. Therefore, the functions of IL-18 in vivo are very heterogeneous and complicated. In principle, IL-18 enhances the IL-12-driven Th1 immune responses, but it can also stimulate Th2 immune responses in the absence of IL-12.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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