Journal of Immunology vol:163 issue:3 pages:1230-6
The development of type 1 diabetes in animal models is T cell and macrophage dependent. Islet inflammation begins as peripheral benign Th2 type insulitis and progresses to destructive Th1 type insulitis, which is driven by the innate immune system via secretion of IL-12 and IL-18. We now report that daily application of IL-18 to diabetes-prone female nonobese diabetic mice, starting at 10 wk of age, suppresses diabetes development (p < 0.001, 65% in sham-treated animals vs 33% in IL-18-treated animals by 140 days of age). In IL-18-treated animals, we detected significantly lower intraislet infiltration (p < 0.05) and concomitantly an impaired progression from Th2 insulitis to Th1-dependent insulitis, as evidenced from IFN-gamma and IL-10 mRNA levels in tissue. The deficient progression was probably due to lesser mRNA expression of the Th1 driving cytokines IL-12 and IL-18 by the innate immune system (p < 0.05). Furthermore, the mRNA expression of inducible NO synthase, a marker of destructive insulitis, was also not up-regulated in the IL-18-treated group. IL-18 did not exert its effect at the levels of islet cells. Cultivation of islets with IL-18 affected NO production or mitochondrial activity and did not protect from the toxicity mediated by IL-1beta, TNF-alpha, and IFN-gamma. In conclusion, we show for the first time that administration of IL-18, a mediator of the innate immune system, suppresses autoimmune diabetes in nonobese diabetic mice by targeting the Th1/Th2 balance of inflammatory immune reactivity in the pancreas.