Journal of leukocyte biology

Frontline Science: IL-18 primes murine NK cells for proliferation by promoting protein synthesis, survival, and autophagy.

PMID 29603367


Combined stimulation by IL-2 and IL-18 effectively promotes proliferation of NK cells, whereas singular stimulation does not. In this study, synergistic effects of these cytokines on NK cells proliferation was analyzed, focusing on the roles of IL-18. In splenic resting NK cells from IL-18KO mice, IL-18 rapidly activated NF-κB independently of IL-2, and activated or up-regulated various molecules downstream of PI3K/AKT and mTOR, including S6, Bcl-XL, ATG5, and LC3II, accompanying increases in cell growth and survival. Thus, IL-18 alone was revealed to augment various cellular processes (gene transcription, protein synthesis, survival) in the absence or presence of IL-2. Notably, combined IL-18 and IL-2 promoted autophagosome formation. In addition, priming NK cells with IL-18 augmented IL-2R, especially CD25, and enabled cells to respond to IL-2, resulting in activation of STAT3 and STAT5, followed by increase of cyclin B1 leading to proliferation. However, IL-2 alone failed to activate STAT3 or STAT5 in resting IL18KO NK cells. These results clarify the distinct roles of IL-2 and IL-18 in NK cell proliferation, and the intrinsic roles of IL-18 in various cellular processes, suggesting a range of functions of IL-18 expressed in an array of nonhematopoietic cells.