PURPOSE OF REVIEW: IL-18 is a pleiotropic cytokine involved in the regulation of innate and adaptive immune responses. IL-18 pro-inflammatory activities are finely regulated in vivo by the inhibitory effects of the soluble IL-18-binding protein (IL-18BP). The elevation of circulating levels of IL-18 has been described in children with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (sJIA). In the recent years, the role of IL-18 in the pathogenesis of secondary haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (sHLH), also referred to as macrophage activation syndrome (MAS), in the context of autoinflammatory diseases, including sJIA, is emerging.
RECENT FINDINGS: A large number of studies in patients and animal models pointed to the imbalance in IL-18/IL-18BP levels, causing increased systemic levels of free bioactive IL-18, as a predisposing factor in the development of MAS. Although the exact mechanisms involved in the development of MAS are not clearly understood, increasing evidence demonstrate the role of IL-18 in upregulating the production of interferon (IFN)-γ.
SUMMARY: On the basis of the first emerging data on the possibility of blocking IL-18, we here discuss the scientific rationale for neutralizing the IL-18/IFNγ axis in the prevention and treatment of sHLH and MAS.