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Lab Invest. 2005 Jul;85(7):908-20.

Enhanced expression of type I interferon and toll-like receptor-3 in primary biliary cirrhosis.

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  • 1Clinical Research Center, National Hospital Organization Nagasaki Medical Center, Nagasaki 856-8562, Japan.


The pathogenesis of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) remains enigmatic. In order to address this issue, we analyzed by laser capture microdissection and real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction the site-specific expression of messenger RNA (mRNA) for cytokines (interferon (IFN)-alpha, -beta, -gamma, interleukin (IL)-1beta, -4, -6, -10, -12p40, -18, tumor necrosis factor-alpha) and toll-like receptors (TLRs) (TLR-2, -3, -4, -7, -9) in portal tract and liver parenchyma from patients with early-stage PBC. Expression of IFN-alpha, -beta and TLR-3 proteins was also studied by immunohistochemistry. Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) and chronic hepatitis C (CHC) served as disease controls. The expression levels of type I IFN (IFN-alpha, -beta) and TLR-3 mRNAs, which are known to induce type I IFN, were significantly higher in portal tract and liver parenchyma as compared to AIH and CHC. A strong positive correlation between the mRNA levels of type I IFN and TLR-3 was also seen in both areas. Immunohistologically, IFN-alpha is present in the mononuclear cells in portal tract and sinusoidal cells. Macrophages in portal tract and hepatocytes expressed IFN-beta and TLR-3. Furthermore, the level of IFN-alpha mRNA in the portal tract was positively correlated with serum alkaline phosphatase. In conclusion, these data indicate that TLR-3 and type I IFN signaling pathways are active in both the portal tract and liver parenchyma of early-stage PBC, and form the basis for our hypothesis that these signaling pathways are involved in the pathophysiology of PBC.

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