- BACKGROUND: Interleukin (IL)-32 is a newly described proinflammatory cytokine that seems likely to play a role in inflammation and host defense. Little is known about the regulation of IL-32 production by primary cells of the immune system. METHODS AND FINDINGS: In the present study, freshly obtained human peripheral blood mononuclear cells were stimulated with different Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists, and gene expression and synthesis of IL-32 was determined. We demonstrate that the TLR4 agonist lipopolysaccharide induces moderate (4-fold) production of IL-32, whereas agonists of TLR2, TLR3, TLR5, or TLR9, each of which strongly induced tumor necrosis factor alpha and IL-6, did not stimulate IL-32 production. However, the greatest amount of IL-32 was induced by the mycobacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis and M. bovis BCG (20-fold over unstimulated cells). IL-32-induced synthesis by either lipopolysaccharide or mycobacteria remains entirely cell-associated in monocytes; moreover, steady-state mRNA levels are present in unstimulated monocytes without translation into IL-32 protein, similar to other cytokines lacking a signal peptide. IL-32 production induced by M. tuberculosis is dependent on endogenous interferon-gamma (IFNgamma); endogenous IFNgamma is, in turn, dependent on M. tuberculosis-induced IL-18 via caspase-1. CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, IL-32 is a cell-associated proinflammatory cytokine, which is specifically stimulated by mycobacteria through a caspase-1- and IL-18-dependent production of IFNgamma.