Interleukin-18 is expressed in rat testis and may promote germ cell growth

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2005 Aug 30;240(1-2):64-73. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2005.05.011.


Although host-defence mechanisms, designed to preserve the integrity of the developing germ cells are operative in the testis, the components of this protective system have yet to be characterised in detail. Here, we report that the cytokine interleukin-18 (IL-18) is expressed in the rat testis and may contribute to these defences. Thus, analysis by RT-PCR and Western blotting revealed pronounced testicular expression of pro-IL-18 from postnatal day 5 and onwards. Expression of both IL-18 mRNA and protein was found to be localised to meiotic and post-meiotic germ cells as evaluated by in situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry, respectively. The mRNA species coding for the IL-18 receptor and IL-1beta converting enzyme, which activates pro-IL-18, were also shown to be expressed by the seminiferous tubules. Recombinant IL-18 was seen to stimulate spermatogonial DNA synthesis in cultures of staged segments of rat seminiferous tubules, without influencing germ cell apoptosis. These results suggest that IL-18 may have host-protective and growth-promoting functions in the testis, but further investigations need to be done to confirm this.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • DNA Replication / drug effects
  • Interleukin-18 / genetics
  • Interleukin-18 / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-18 / pharmacology
  • Leydig Cells / drug effects
  • Leydig Cells / metabolism
  • Male
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Spermatogenesis / immunology*
  • Spermatozoa / chemistry
  • Spermatozoa / growth & development*
  • Testis / cytology
  • Testis / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / biosynthesis


  • Interleukin-18
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Testosterone