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J Leukoc Biol. 1998 Jun;63(6):658-64.

Overview of interleukin-18: more than an interferon-gamma inducing factor.

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  • 1University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver 80262, USA.


Initially described in 1989 as interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) inducing factor (IGIF), interleukin-18 (IL-18) is a novel pro-inflammatory cytokine that is clearly more than an inducer of IFN-gamma. The cytokine possesses several biological properties such as activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB), Fas ligand expression, the induction of both CC and CXC chemokines, and increased production of competent human immunodeficiency virus. Most activities are due to a receptor complex that recruits the IL-1 receptor-activating kinase (IRAK), leading to translocation of NF-kappaB. This property and others support the concept that IL-18 is related to the IL-1 family. Indeed, one of the IL-18 receptor chains is the IL-1 receptor-related protein, a member of the IL-1R family. In addition, IL-18 is structurally similar to IL-1beta and like IL-1beta is first synthesized as a leaderless precursor requiring the IL-1beta converting enzyme for cleavage into an active molecule. The biology of IL-18 is reviewed in the overview and the implication for a role for this cytokine in disease is presented.

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