- After emigration from the bone marrow to the peripheral blood, monocytes enter tissues and differentiate into macrophages, the prototype scavenger of the immune system. By ingesting and killing microorganisms and removing cellular debris, macrophages also process antigens as a first step in mounting a specific immune response. IL-32 is a cytokine inducing proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines via p38-MAPK and NF-κB. In the present study, we demonstrate that IL-32 induces differentiation of human blood monocytes as well as THP-1 leukemic cells into macrophage-like cells with functional phagocytic activity for live bacteria. Muramyl dipepide (MDP), the ligand for the intracellular nuclear oligomerization domain (NOD) 2 receptor, has no effect on differentiation alone but augments the monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation by IL-32. Unexpectedly, IL-32 reversed GM-CSF/IL-4-induced dendritic cell differentiation to macrophage-like cells. Whereas the induction of TNFα, IL-1β, and IL-6 by IL-32 is mediated by p38-MAPK, IL-32-induced monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation is mediated through nonapoptotic, caspase-3-dependent mechanisms. Thus, IL-32 not only contributes to host responses through the induction of proinflammatory cytokines but also directly affects specific immunity by differentiating monocytes into macrophage-like cells.