Interleukin (IL)-18 was originally discovered as a factor that enhanced IFN-γ production from anti-CD3-stimulated Th1 cells, especially in the presence of IL-12. Upon stimulation with Ag plus IL-12, naïve T cells develop into IL-18 receptor (IL-18R) expressing Th1 cells, which increase IFN-γ production in response to IL-18 stimulation. Therefore, IL-12 is a commitment factor that induces the development of Th1 cells. In contrast, IL-18 is a proinflammatory cytokine that facilitates type 1 responses. However, IL-18 without IL-12 but with IL-2, stimulates NK cells, CD4+
NKT cells, and established Th1 cells, to produce IL-3, IL-9, and IL-13. Furthermore, together with IL-3, IL-18 stimulates mast cells and basophils to produce IL-4, IL-13, and chemical mediators such as histamine. Therefore, IL-18 is a cytokine that stimulates various cell types and has pleiotropic functions. IL-18 is a member of the IL-1 family of cytokines. IL-18 demonstrates a unique function by binding to a specific receptor expressed on various types of cells. In this review article, we will focus on the unique features of IL-18 in health and disease in experimental animals and humans.
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