The binding of IL-18 to IL-18Rα induces both proinflammatory and protective functions during infection, depending on the context in which it occurs. IL-18 is highly expressed in the liver of wild-type (WT) C57BL/6 mice following lethal infection with highly virulent Ixodes ovatus ehrlichia (IOE), an obligate intracellular bacterium that causes acute fatal toxic shock-like syndrome. In this study, we found that IOE infection of IL-18Rα-/- mice resulted in significantly less host cell apoptosis, decreased hepatic leukocyte recruitment, enhanced bacterial clearance, and prolonged survival compared with infected WT mice, suggesting a pathogenic role for IL-18/IL-18Rα in Ehrlichia-induced toxic shock. Although lack of IL-18R decreased the magnitude of IFN-γ producing type-1 immune response, enhanced resistance of IL-18Rα-/- mice against Ehrlichia correlated with increased proinflammatory cytokines at sites of infection, decreased systemic IL-10 production, increased frequency of protective NKT cells producing TNF-α and IFN-γ, and decreased frequency of pathogenic TNF-α-producing CD8+ T cells. Adoptive transfer of immune WT CD8+ T cells increased bacterial burden in IL-18Rα-/- mice following IOE infection. Furthermore, rIL-18 treatment of WT mice infected with mildly virulent Ehrlichia muris impaired bacterial clearance and enhanced liver injury. Finally, lack of IL-18R signal reduced dendritic cell maturation and their TNF-α production, suggesting that IL-18 might promote the adaptive pathogenic immune responses against Ehrlichia by influencing T cell priming functions of dendritic cells. Together, these results suggested that the presence or absence of IL-18R signals governs the pathogenic versus protective immunity in a model of Ehrlichia-induced immunopathology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy