A novel isoform of pro-interleukin-18 expressed in ovarian tumors is resistant to caspase-1 and -4 processing

Alessia Gaggero, Alessandro De Ambrosis, Delia Mezzanzanica, Tiziana Piazza, Anna Rubartelli, Mariangela Figini, Silvana Canevari, Silvano Ferrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interleukin-18 (IL-18) is a proinflammatory cytokine synthesized as a 24kDa inactive precursor (pro-IL-18) by several cell types, and is processed to a bioactive molecule of 18kDa by the proteinases caspase-1 or caspase-4. All ovarian carcinoma cell lines express pro-IL-18, only in some instances coexpress caspase-1, and always express caspase-4; in any case, they display a defective processing of IL-18. We analysed whether pro-IL-18, present in two ovarian carcinoma cell lysates, could be processed 'in vitro' by recombinant active caspase-1. While most of pro-IL-18 could be cleaved by caspase-1, a residual of pro-IL-18 appeared to be resistant. Cloning and sequence analysis of the whole pro-IL-18 open reading frame demonstrated the existence of an alternatively spliced mRNA variant, which lacked exon-3 (Δ3pro-IL-18). The 12 bp exon-3 encodes for the AEDD amino-acid sequence, which is N-terminal with respect to the cleavage site of caspase-1. Both pro-IL-18 and Δ3pro-IL-18 mRNA isoforms were detected in all ovarian cancer cell lines analysed, while Δ3pro-IL-18 mRNA was undetectable in normal ovarian epithelial cells. The Δ3pro-IL-18 cDNA induced synthesis of an alternative Δ3pro-IL-18 protein upon transfection into a murine cell line. The Δ3pro-IL-18 protein was resistant to proteolytic activation by caspase-1 and -4, although it was capable to bind caspase-1. Aternative splicing of pro-IL-18 exon-3 may represent a novel mechanism of regulation of bioactive IL-18 production in human ovarian tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7552-7560
Number of pages9
Issue number45
Publication statusPublished - Sept 30 2004


  • Alternative splicing
  • Caspase-1
  • Caspase-4
  • IL-18 isoform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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