Endogenous IL-18 in experimentally induced asthma affects cytokine serum levels but is irrelevant for clinical symptoms

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T cells and T cell derived cytokines are involved in the complex pathogenesis of asthma. The role of the cytokine IL-18 however, is not clearly defined so far. On the one hand side IL-18 induces Th1-type cytokines and thereby might counter-regulate Th2-mediated allergic asthma. On the other hand IL-18 also bears pro-inflammatory effects possibly enhancing experimental asthma. In order to elucidate the role of IL-18 in allergic pulmonary inflammation typical symptoms were compared after induction of experimental asthma in IL-18−/− and in wild type mice. Asthma was induced using ovalbumin (OVA) as allergen for sensitization and challenge. Sham sensitized and OVA challenged mice served as controls. Bronchoalveolar lavage-fluid cytology, leukocyte infiltration in lung tissues, serum levels of OVA-specific IgE and cytokines, and lung function were analyzed. Clear differences could be observed between control and asthmatic mice, both in wild type and IL-18−/− animals. Surprisingly, no differences were found between asthmatic wild type and IL-18−/− mice. Thus, in contrast to conflicting data in the literature IL-18 did not suppress or enhance the pulmonary allergic immune response in a murine experimental model of asthma.

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