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Infect Immun. 2001 Nov;69(11):6643-50.

Enhanced gamma interferon production through activation of Valpha14(+) natural killer T cells by alpha-galactosylceramide in interleukin-18-deficient mice with systemic cryptococcosis.

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First Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan.


We showed recently that activation of Valpha14(+) natural killer T cells (NKT cells) by alpha-galactosylceramide (alpha-GalCer) resulted in increased gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) production and host resistance to intravenous infection with Cryptococcus neoformans. In other studies, interleukin-18 (IL-18) activated NKT cells in collaboration with IL-12, suggesting the possible contribution of this cytokine to alpha-GalCer-induced IFN-gamma synthesis. Here we examined the role of IL-18 in alpha-GalCer-induced Th1 response by using IL-18KO mice with this infection. In these mice, levels of IFN-gamma in serum and its synthesis in vitro by spleen cells stimulated with live organisms were not reduced, but rather enhanced, compared to those in wild-type (WT) mice, while such production was completely absent in IL-12KO mice. The enhanced production of IFN-gamma correlated with increased IL-12 synthesis but not with reduced production of IL-4, which was rather increased. IFN-gamma synthesis in IL-18KO mice was abolished by neutralizing anti-IL-12 antibody and significantly inhibited by neutralization of endogenous IL-4 with a specific monoclonal antibody. In addition, administration of recombinant IL-4 significantly enhanced the production of IFN-gamma in WT mice. Finally, the enhanced production of IFN-gamma in IL-18KO mice correlated with increased host defense against cryptococcal infection, as indicated by enhancement in alpha-GalCer-related clearance of microorganisms. Our results indicated that in IL-18KO mice, IFN-gamma synthesis was enhanced through overproduction of IL-12 and IL-4 after intravenous infection with C. neoformans and a ligand-specific activation of Valpha14(+) NKT cells.

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