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J Immunol. 2007 Feb 1;178(3):1948-59.

IL-18 is induced and IL-18 receptor alpha plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of cigarette smoke-induced pulmonary emphysema and inflammation.

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Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Th1 inflammation and remodeling characterized by local tissue destruction coexist in pulmonary emphysema and other diseases. To test the hypothesis that IL-18 plays an important role in these responses, we characterized the regulation of IL-18 in lungs from cigarette smoke (CS) and room air-exposed mice and characterized the effects of CS in wild-type mice and mice with null mutations of IL-18Ralpha (IL-18Ralpha(-/-)). CS was a potent stimulator and activator of IL-18 and caspases 1 and 11. In addition, although CS caused inflammation and emphysema in wild-type mice, both of these responses were significantly decreased in IL-18Ralpha(-/-) animals. CS also induced epithelial apoptosis, activated effector caspases and stimulated proteases and chemokines via IL-18Ralpha-dependent pathways. Importantly, the levels of IL-18 and its targets, cathepsins S and B, were increased in pulmonary macrophages from smokers and patients with chronic obstructive lung disease. Elevated levels of circulating IL-18 were also seen in patients with chronic obstructive lung disease. These studies demonstrate that IL-18 and the IL-18 pathway are activated in CS-exposed mice and man. They also demonstrate, in a murine modeling system, that IL-18R signaling plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of CS-induced inflammation and emphysema.

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