- In this study we examined the cellular origin and the expression levels of interleukin-18 (IL-18), IL-18 receptor (IL-18R) and IL-1beta-converting enzyme (ICE), which activates pro-IL-18, during normal maturation of murine testis. The levels of IL-18, IL-18R and ICE were significantly higher in testicular tissues and homogenates (but not in the spleen or liver) from sexually immature than mature mice. Immunohistochemical staining of testicular tissues from sexually immature and mature mice shows that testicular germ cells and Leydig cells/interstitial cells express higher levels of IL-18, as compared to other testicular cells. Peritubular cells of sexually immature and mature mice also expressed IL-18. Our results demonstrate, for the first time, over-expression of the IL-18 family in testicular tissues of sexually immature mice, as compared to mature mice, as well as the expression of IL-18 in the different stages of differentiation of testicular germ cells. Thus, our results may indicate involvement of the endocrine system (gonadotropins and testosterone) in the regulation of the testicular IL-18 family, which could be involved in the regulation of testicular functions, development and spermatogenesis under physiological conditions.