When LPS is administered to heat-killed Propionibacterium acnes-primed BALB/c nude mice, they develop endotoxin-induced liver injury. As previously reported, this liver injury can be prevented by treatment with an Ab against IL-18, a novel cytokine with the ability to induce IFN-gamma production and up-regulate functional Fas ligand (FasL) expression. To identify the pathologic role of IL-18 in this liver injury, we investigated the hepatic cytokine network and FasL induction after LPS challenge. After LPS challenge to BALB/c nude mice, their livers expressed IL-12 mRNA, followed by the induction of IFN-gamma and FasL mRNA and then by the late elevation of TNF-alpha mRNA, but stably expressed IL-18 mRNA. The TNF-alpha induction curve had two peaks. The first peak was the result of the direct reaction to LPS, and the late peak might have been induced, since P. acnes-elicited Kupffer cells showed one-peak TNF-alpha kinetics in response to LPS stimulation in vitro. LPS-activated P. acnes-elicited Kupffer cells secreted both IL-12 and IL-18, as determined by ELISA and bioassay, respectively. The in vivo administration of anti-IL-18 just before an LPS challenge suppressed not only the induction of IFN-gamma and the late TNF-alpha elevation, but also the FasL induction, resulting in the total prevention of liver injury, whereas such an anti-IL-12 treatment did not. Anti-IFN-gamma treatment reduced the late increase in TNF-alpha, but not FasL, resulting in a partial prevention of the liver injury. The administration of anti-TNF-alpha just before elevation of the late TNF-alpha peak also markedly, but incompletely, suppressed the LPS-induced liver injury. These data suggested that IL-18 activates both TNF-alpha- and FasL-mediated hepatocytotoxic pathways in endotoxin-induced liver injury.