Author(s): Norris S, Doherty DG, Collins C, McEntee G, Traynor O,
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Abstract The adult liver contains lymphocytes with a unique phenotypic distribution compared to blood and other organs. We have characterized a human lymphocyte population that exhibits dual T cell and natural killer (NK) cell phenotype and function, denoted natural T (NT) cells, in nine normal adult liver specimens. Flow cytometry revealed that up to 55\% (mean 27\%) of hepatic (but <6\% of peripheral) CD3+ lymphocytes expressed CD56, CD161 and/or one or more of the killer inhibitory receptors (KIR) p58.1, p58.2, p70 and CD94. NK function was attributed to the CD3+CD56+ cells by the demonstration that hepatic, but not peripheral, CD3+ lymphocytes could be induced to lyse NK-sensitive K562 target cells, while CD56- cells from both compartments could not. Three color flow cytometric analysis of fresh hepatic cells indicated that CD3+CD56+ NT cells can be either CD8+, CD4+ or CD4 CD8-, they express alphabeta or gammadelta T cell receptors (TCR) and CD161 and KIRs, but rarely CD16. Hepatic NT cells predominantly express the mature/activated CD45RO and CD56dim phenotypes. Analysis of mRNA production by isolated NT cells indicated a preferential usage of the invariant CD1-restricted Valpha24-JalphaQ TCR. The presence of such large numbers of chronically activated NT cells provides compelling evidence that the liver has unique immunoregulatory functions.
This article was published in Hum Immunol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Cellular Immunology