PloS one 2018 03 3013(3) e0194185 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0194185
Interleukin-18 (IL-18) is a pleiotropic cytokine of the IL-1 family with multiple context dependent functions. We and others have shown that HIV infection is accompanied by increased circulating levels of IL-18 along with decreased levels of its antagonist, Interleukin-18 Binding Protein (IL-18BP). The infection is also accompanied by intestinal inflammation and decreased intestinal integrity as measured by intestinal permeability, regeneration and repair. However, little is known concerning the relation between high level of IL-18 associated with the viral infection and intestinal permeability. Here we demonstrate that HIV treatment increases production of IL-18 and decreases that of IL-18BP production in human intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) lines. IL-18 causes apoptosis of the IEC by activating caspase-1 and caspase-3. It induces epithelial barrier hyperpermeability by decreasing and disrupting both tight and adherens junction proteins, occludin, claudin 2 and beta-catenin. Disorganization of F-actin was also observed in the IEC that were exposed to the cytokine. Moreover IL-18 decreases transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) in Caco-2 and increases permeability in HT29 monolayers. The cells’ treatment with IL-18 causes an increase in the expression of phosphorylated myosin II regulatory light-chain (p-MLC) and myosin light-chain kinase (MLCK), and a decrease in phosphorylated Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription (p-STAT)-5. This increase in p-MLC is suppressed by a Rho-kinase (ROCK)-specific inhibitor. Interestingly, the levels of the cytokine correlate with those of LPS in the circulation in three different categories of HIV infected patients (HAART-naïve and HAART-treated HIV-infected individuals, and Elite controls) as well as in healthy controls. Collectively, these results suggest that the HIV-induced IL-18 plays a role in increased intestinal permeability and microbial translocation observed in HIV-infected individuals.