Interleukin-18 promotes joint inflammation and induces interleukin-1-driven cartilage destruction

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Interleukin (IL)-18 is a member of the IL-1 family of proteins that exerts proinflammatory effects and is a pivotal cytokine for the development of Th1 responses. The goal of the present study was to investigate whether IL-18 induces joint inflammation and joint destruction directly or via induction of other cytokines such as IL-1 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). To this end we performed both in vitro and in vivo kinetic studies. For in vivo IL-18 exposure studies C57BL/6, TNF-deficient, and IL-1-deficient mice were injected intra-articularly with 1.107 pfu mIL-18 adenovirus followed by histopathological examination. Local overexpression of IL-18 resulted in pronounced joint inflammation and cartilage proteoglycan loss in control mice. Of high interest, IL-18 gene transfer in IL-1-deficient mice did not show cartilage damage, although joint inflammation was similar to that in wild-type animals. Overexpression of IL-18 in TNF-deficient mice showed that TNF was partly involved in IL-18-induced joint swelling and influx of inflammatory cells, but cartilage proteoglycan loss occurred independent of TNF. In vitro cartilage degradation by IL-18 was found after a 72-hour culture period. Blocking of IL-1 with IL-1Ra or an ICE-inhibitor resulted in complete protection against IL-18-mediated cartilage degradation. The present study demonstrated that IL-18 induces joint inflammation independently of IL-1. In addition, we showed that IL-1β generation, because of IL-18 exposure, was essential for marked cartilage degradation both in vitro and in vivo. These findings implicate that IL-18, in contrast to TNF, contributes through separate pathways to joint inflammation and cartilage destruction.




Joosten, L. A. B., Smeets, R. L., Koenders, M. I., Van Den Bersselaar, L. A. M., Helsen, M. M. A., Oppers-Walgreen, B., … Van Den Berg, W. B. (2004). Interleukin-18 promotes joint inflammation and induces interleukin-1-driven cartilage destruction. American Journal of Pathology, 165(3), 959–967.

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