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Interleukin-18: a regulator of cancer and autoimmune diseases

Maryam Esmailbeig, Abbas Ghaderi
European Cytokine Network 2017 November 1, 28 (4): 127-140
Interleukin (IL)-18, structurally similar to IL-1β, is a member of IL-1 superfamily of cytokines. This cytokine, which is expressed by many human lymphoid and nonlymphoid cells, has an important role in inflammatory processes. The main function of IL-18 is mediated through induction of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) secretion from T helper (Th1) cells. This cytokine synergistically with IL-12 contributes to Th1 differentiation and, therefore, is important in host defense mechanisms against intracellular bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Recent evidences showing the involvement of IL-18 in Th2 differentiation and ultimately IgE production from B cells have shed a new insight on the dual effects of IL-18 on Th1 and Th2 inflammatory responses. IL-18 in combination with IL-12 can activate cytotoxic T cells (CTLs), as well as natural killer (NK) cells, to produce IFN-γ and, therefore, may contribute to tumor immunity. The biological activity of IL-18 is not limited to these cells, but it also plays a role in development of Th17 cell responses. IL-18 synergistically with IL-23 can induce IL-17 secretion from Th17 cells. The diverse biological activity of IL-18 on T-cell subsets and other immune cells has made this cytokine a good target for investigating its role in various inflammatory-based diseases. Lately, the discovery of IL-18 binding protein (IL-18BP), a physiological inhibitor of IL-18 and a hallmark of IL-18 biology, made this cytokine an attractive target for studying its pros and cons in the treatment of various diseases. In recent years, the biology, genetics, and pathological role of IL-18 have been studied in a number of diseases. In this article, we aimed to present an updated review on these aspects regarding the contribution of IL-18 to important diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity, and inflammatory-mediated conditions including allergic diseases, metabolic syndrome, and atherosclerosis. Emerging data indicating prognostic, diagnostic, and therapeutic features of IL-18 and its related molecules will also be discussed.


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