Expression of interleukin-18 in human ovarian carcinoma and normal ovarian epithelium: Evidence for defective processing in tumor cells

Zhao Yuan Wang, Alessia Gaggero, Anna Rubartelli, Ombretta Rosso, Silvia Miotti, Delia Mezzanzanica, Silvana Canevari, Silvano Ferrini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Interleukin-18 (IL-18) is a proinflammatory monokine structurally related to IL-Iβ that stimulates interferon-γ (IFN-γ) production. IL-18 is synthesized as an inactive precursor, pro-IL-18, which is cleaved by IL-Iβ-converting enzyme (ICE)/caspase-I in a mature protein. In view of the proposed use of IL-18 in cancer immuno/gene therapy, we have studied the expression of IL-18 in tumor cells. IL-18 mRNA was detected by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction in all human ovarian carcinoma cell lines tested (9/9) and in one-half of tumor cell populations obtained from ovarian carcinoma patients (4/8). ICE mRNA was expressed in a smaller fraction of samples (3/9 cell lines and 3/8 samples from patients). IL-18 protein was also found in 7/13 ovarian carcinoma solid tumors by immunohistochemic analysis. In tumor cell lines we were able to detect abundant intracellular pro-IL-18 (24 kDa) by Western blotting, whereas the mature form of IL-18 was undetectable, irrespective of the presence of ICE mRNA and protein. Only pro-IL-18 was also found in the ovarian carcinoma cell supernatants, which did not display any IL-18 biologic activity in functional assays. Normal cultured ovarian epithelial cells revealed the presence of both IL-18 and ICE mRNA in all samples (5/5) and IL-18 protein was expressed by the thin epithelial cell layer surrounding normal ovary. More importantly, normal ovarian epithelial cells released low but detectable amounts of mature IL-18 in the culture supernatant, which displayed IL-18-like biologic activity in functional assays. These data suggest that mature biologically active IL-18 production is a feature of the normal ovarian surface epithelium lost during neoplastic transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-878
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Apr 20 2002


  • 1L-18
  • ICE
  • Immune response
  • Ovarian carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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