Study objectives: To investigate whether differing airway interleukin (IL)-18 levels may be implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma and sarcoidosis.
Setting: University teaching hospital.
Patients and methods: IL-18 levels were measured in BAL fluid and in the supernatant of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated alveolar macrophages obtained by BAL from 15 patients with sarcoidosis, 11 patients with asthma, and 13 healthy subjects. We also examined the relationship between IL-18 levels and macrophage and lymphocyte concentrations in BAL fluid. IL-18 was measured using an in-house enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: IL-18 levels were significantly lower in BAL fluid from patients with asthma (median, 0.0 pg/mL; interquartile range, 0.0 to 0.0 pg/mL) compared to patients with sarcoidosis (median, 222.0 pg/106; interquartile range, 110 to 340 pg/mL; p = 0.009, Mann Whitney rank-sum test) and healthy control subjects (median, 162 pg/mL; interquartile range, 38 to 203 pg/mL; p = 0.025, Mann Whitney rank-sum test). Individual analyses comparing IL-18 levels with BAL macrophage counts, and IL-18 with lymphocyte counts in the three groups showed no correlation between these indexes. The mean levels of IL-18 in unstimulated macrophage supernatants were 410 pg/106 cells for patients with asthma, 723.4 pg/106 cells for patients with sarcoidosis, and 734.8 pg/106 cells for healthy control subjects (p > 0.05). Stimulated macrophages from patients with sarcoidosis responded with increasing amounts of IL-18 at lower doses of LPS than macrophages from healthy control subjects or patients with asthma.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that inherently low levels of IL-18 may be associated with the pathogenesis of asthmatic airway inflammation.