A role of IL-18 in the induction of gastric lesions by water immersion and restraint stress (WRS) was investigated. When wild-type BALB/c mice were exposed to WRS, levels of IL-18 in the serum and stomach increased rapidly with the development of acute gastric lesions. In IL-18-deficient mice [IL-18 knockout (KO) mice] similarly exposed to WRS, no gastric lesions were observed, but the administration of IL-18 before exposure to WRS resulted in the induction of WRS-induced gastric lesions. WRS enhanced gastric histidine decarboxylase (HDC) activity with concomitant increases in gastric histamine content. In IL-18 KO mice, the WRS-induced elevation of gastric HDC activity and histamine levels was much less than that in wild-type mice, but it was augmented by prior administration of IL-18. Treatment of wild-type mice with cimetidine, a histamine H2 receptor antagonist, inhibited the formation of WRS-induced gastric lesions with no effect on the induction of gastric IL-18 by WRS. Levels of corticosterone, one of the stress indicators, were lower in IL-18 KO mice than in wild-type mice. The glucocorticoid receptor antagonist mifepristone had no effect on gastric IL-18 and histamine levels but aggravated the stress-induced gastric lesions, indicating that corticosterone was not involved in the IL-18-mediated formation of stress-induced gastric lesions. These results indicate that IL-18 is involved in the induction of gastric lesions by WRS through augmentation of HDC activity and production of histamine in the stomach.