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Cell Tissue Res. 2003 Mar;311(3):353-64. Epub 2003 Feb 5.

Apoptosis of T cells in the hepatic fibrotic tissue of the rat: a possible inducing role of hepatic myofibroblast-like cells.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka City University, 1-4-3 Asahimachi, Abeno-ku, 545-8585, Osaka, Japan.


Apoptosis of T cells contributes to the immune homeostasis in inflamed organs. A prominent T-cell infiltration is usually seen in human chronic active hepatitis, being associated with liver fibrosis. In order to demonstrate T-cell apoptosis in the hepatic fibrotic tissue, we induced T-cell infiltration in the fibrotic liver of the rat by injecting concanavalin A (Con A), a T-cell mitogen. Lymphocytes increased in number with a peak at 1 day, preferentially distributing in the fibrotic tissue rather than the parenchyma. They consisted of CD4-positive and CD8-positive cells, and gave the feature of lymphoblasts. Double staining for CD3 and TUNEL demonstrated that T cells underwent apoptosis. Apoptotic cells were more frequent in the fibrotic livers than the normal livers, and were spatially associated with alpha-smooth muscle actin-positive myofibroblast-like cells that possibly derived from hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) and portal fibroblasts through activation. In vitro experiments demonstrated that lymphocyte apoptosis was more frequently induced in the co-culture of Con A-activated splenic T cells/activated HSCs compared to that induced in activated T cells/quiescent HSCs or resting T cells/activated HSCs. The present results indicate that T cells which have extravasated and infiltrated the hepatic fibrotic tissue undergo apoptosis probably through an interaction with myofibroblast-like cells, suggesting the regulatory role of the latter cells in T-cell accumulation in the fibrotic liver.

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