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Eur Cytokine Netw. 2006 Dec;17(4):224-52.

IL-18 in autoimmunity: review.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cytokines, Unit of Immunobiology, Institute of Biomedical Technologies, National Research Council, CNR, Area della Ricerca di S. Cataldo, via G. Moruzzi 1, I-56124 Pisa, Italy.


IL-18 is among the cytokines responsible for immune-mediated pathologies and is probably one of the factors that contribute to the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Identification of the causes of uncontrolled IL-18 production and activity in autoimmunity would allow for novel therapeutic targets to effectively block autoimmune activation and inhibit concomitant tissue damage. IL-18 is produced mainly by monocytes/macrophages in response to stimuli of viral/bacterial origin, its production being therefore one of the effects of innate immunity initiated by host-pathogen interaction. In this review, we summarise the evidence supporting both the effector and the pathogenic role of IL-18 in autoimmunity, and propose that the disturbed mechanism of innate immunity, resulting from macrophage activation through innate immunity receptors (TLR/IL-1R family), may be the basis of pathologically high levels of IL-18 production and activation. Unravelling the mechanisms of IL-18 production and activity in autoimmune diseases will allow the identification of targets for more effective therapeutic intervention.

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