Intestinal epithelial cell (IEC)-derived cytokines, such as stem cell factor (SCF), interleukin (IL)-7 and IL-15 are known to be required for the development of intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs). A newly described cytokine, IL-18, has also been shown to be produced by intestinal epithelial cells. To demonstrate the functional effects of IL-18 on human IELs, we assessed IL-18/IL-18 receptor expression in IEC/IEL and proliferation following stimulation of intestinal IELs by IL-18. IL-18 transcripts were detected both in freshly isolated human colonie epithelial cells and in various colonie epithelial cell lines. IL-18 protein was also detected by ELISA and flow cytometric analysis using antihuman IL-18-specific monoclonal antibody (MoAb). Furthermore, IELs constitutively expressed the IL-18 receptor in addition to the IL-2 and IL-7 receptors. More importantly, IL-18 augmented significant proliferative responses of IEL in combination with IL-2, IL-7 and IL-15 both in the presence and in absence of anti-CD3 MoAb. These results suggest that IL-18 might play a crucial role in the proliferation and maintenance of intestinal IELs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas