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Hepatic CD1d expression in hepatitis C virus infection and recognition by resident proinflammatory CD1d-reactive T cells.

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  • Medicine


A subset of CD161(+)CD56(+/-) NKT cells can recognize glycolipids presented by CD1d and positively or negatively regulate inflammatory responses, including those implicated in several models of hepatitis. CD1d is expressed at very low levels in the healthy liver, but there is a large fraction of CD161(+)CD56(+) NKT cells. There are high levels of nonclassical proinflammatory hepatic CD1d-reactive T cells in hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Hepatic inflammatory cells and biliary cells adjacent to portal tract fibrotic areas of HCV-infected donors specifically up-regulated CD1d. A hepatocyte cell line expressing minimal CD1d was efficiently recognized by hepatic CD1d-reactive T cells, suggesting a role for these cells in disease. Hepatic CD1d-reactive T cells from HCV-positive as well as negative donors produced large amounts of IFN-gamma with some IL-13, but only rarely detectable IL-4. We confirmed large numbers of hepatic CD161(+) T cells, lower levels of CD56(+) T cells, and small numbers of classic invariant NKT cells. However, hepatic CD1d-reactivity was not restricted to any of these populations. We suggest virally infected hepatic cells can process potent CD1d-presented liver Ag(s), for surveillance by resident Th1 hepatic CD1d-reactive T cells. This process may be beneficial in acute viral clearance, but in chronic infection could contribute to liver injury.

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