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IL-18 (also known as IFN-gamma-inducing factor), although structurally unrelated to IL-12, shares with it the role of activating NK cells and polarizing T cells toward Th1 cell function. To understand how the IL-18 gene (and consequently Th1 function) is regulated, we have determined the gene structure and investigated the mechanisms of transcriptional control and cell type expression. The mouse IL-18 gene comprises seven exons distributed over 26 kb. Exons 1 and 2 of this gene are 5'-noncoding exons. Promoter activity was detected upstream of these noncoding exons in two distinct regions. Both promoters are TATA-less and not G+C rich. The promoter activity located upstream of exon 2 was shown to act constitutively, while the activity located upstream of exon 1 was up-regulated in activated macrophage and T cell lines. IL-18 gene expression may be regulated in a wide range of cell types by the activities of these two distinct promoters. IL-18 is known to be synthesized as a precursor, pro-IL-18, and its maturation is controlled by IL-1beta-converting enzyme (ICE). We observed concordant expression of IL-18 and ICE mRNAs in a wide range of cell types, unlike the more restricted expression of IL-12 p40 mRNA. The widespread IL-18 mRNA distribution and the special relationship with ICE lead us to the hypothesis that IL-18 expression may be coupled with apoptotic processes involving activation of ICE or ICE-like proteinase.


Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





6156 - 6163


Animals, Base Sequence, Caspase 1, Cell Line, Cysteine Endopeptidases, Cytokines, Embryo, Mammalian, Exons, Gene Expression Regulation, Genes, Interleukin-1, Interleukin-12, Interleukin-18, Mice, Molecular Sequence Data, Promoter Regions, Genetic, RNA, Messenger, Stem Cells, Transcription, Genetic