Author(s): Melhem A, Muhanna N, Bishara A, Alvarez CE, Ilan Y,
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Abstract BACKGROUND/AIMS: We have investigated the role of natural killer (NK) cells in hepatic fibrogenesis. Mouse NK cells express both inhibitory/activating-killing-immunoglobulin-related-receptors (iKIR/aKIR) specific for Class-I-molecules. METHODS: Hepatic fibrosis induced by carbon-tetrachloride (CCl4) was compared between wild-type (WT) male-BALBc; combined-immunodeficiency (SCID, lacking B/T-cells); and SCID-BEIGE-mice (lacking B/T/NK cells), and naive mice. RESULTS: Hepatic fibrosis significantly increased in all CCl4-treated groups. SCID-BEIGE mice had more fibrosis than SCID-mice (P<0.0001) as assessed by morphometry of sirius-red stained tissue sections. Following fibrosis, hepatic NK cells significantly decreased, the aKIR:iKIR-ratio significantly increased while Class-I expression on HSC decreased (P<0.001). Both freshly isolated and in situ HSC displayed a significant increase in cellular apoptosis following fibrosis induction. Confocal microscopy demonstrated the direct adhesion of NK cells to HSC in mouse liver sections and in vitro human NK/HSC co-culture. In human HSC there was decreased Class-I expression and increased apoptosis as well, which was further increased following blocking of either HSC-related Class-I or NK-related killer inhibitory receptors. Apoptosis was inhibited by pre-incubation of NK cells with the granzyme inhibitor 3,4-dichloroisocoumarin. CONCLUSIONS: During liver injury, NK cells have an anti-fibrotic activity at least in part through stimulation of HSC killing.
This article was published in J Hepatol
and referenced in Journal of Gastrointestinal & Digestive System