Interleukin 18 function in atherosclerosis is mediated by the interleukin 18 receptor and the Na-Cl co-transporter

Nat Med. 2015 Jul;21(7):820-6. doi: 10.1038/nm.3890. Epub 2015 Jun 22.


Interleukin-18 (IL18) participates in atherogenesis through several putative mechanisms. Interruption of IL18 action reduces atherosclerosis in mice. Here, we show that absence of the IL18 receptor (IL18r) does not affect atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E-deficient (Apoe(-/-)) mice, nor does it affect IL18 cell surface binding to or signaling in endothelial cells. As identified initially by co-immunoprecipitation with IL18, we found that IL18 interacts with the Na-Cl co-transporter (NCC; also known as SLC12A3), a 12-transmembrane-domain ion transporter protein preferentially expressed in the kidney. NCC is expressed in atherosclerotic lesions, where it colocalizes with IL18r. In Apoe(-/-) mice, combined deficiency of IL18r and NCC, but not single deficiency of either protein, protects mice from atherosclerosis. Peritoneal macrophages from Apoe(-/-) mice or from Apoe(-/-) mice lacking IL18r or NCC show IL18 binding and induction of cell signaling and cytokine and chemokine expression, but macrophages from Apoe(-/-) mice with combined deficiency of IL18r and NCC have a blunted response. An interaction between NCC and IL18r on macrophages was detected by co-immunoprecipitation. IL18 binds to the cell surface of NCC-transfected COS-7 cells, which do not express IL18r, and induces cell signaling and cytokine expression. This study identifies NCC as an IL18-binding protein that collaborates with IL18r in cell signaling, inflammatory molecule expression, and experimental atherogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta / pathology
  • Apolipoproteins E / deficiency
  • Apolipoproteins E / metabolism
  • Atherosclerosis / metabolism*
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology
  • COS Cells
  • Chemokines / metabolism
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Interleukin-18 / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, Interleukin-18 / deficiency
  • Receptors, Interleukin-18 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Solute Carrier Family 12, Member 3 / metabolism
  • Tunica Intima / pathology


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Chemokines
  • Interleukin-18
  • Receptors, Interleukin-18
  • Slc12a3 protein, mouse
  • Solute Carrier Family 12, Member 3