We previously reported that systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have a higher risk of insulin resistance and abnormal insulin secretion. Recent studies demonstrated that interleukin (IL)-18, a novel pro-inflammatory cytokine, may be involved in triggering the inflammatory processes in SLE and the concentrations of circulating IL-18 in SLE patients were significantly higher than those in healthy subjects. IL-12 has a synergistic effect with IL-18, and both cytokines are inducers of interferon (IFN)-γ. The objective of this study was to identify the effect of fasting insulin levels on circulating concentrations of IL-18, IL-12 and IFN-γ in patients with SLE. Plasma levels of proinflammatory Th-1 cytokines were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in a total of 70 female SLE patients and 34 age-matched healthy females. Insulin resistance (IR) and secretion were evaluated by homeostasis model assessment (HOMA). All patients were further classified into subgroups based on the quartiles of fasting insulin levels. SLE patients with fasting insulin levels in the top quartile compared with other quartiles had significantly higher plasma levels of IL-18. The presence of insulin auto-antibodies (IAA) in SLE patients had no influence on plasma levels of IL-18. In addition, fasting insulin levels and HOMA IR were positively correlated with IL-18 in all SLE patients, respectively. In conclusion, elevated circulating IL-18 concentrations corresponded with increases in fasting insulin levels and the status of insulin resistance in patients with SLE.
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