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Clin Immunol. 2009 Jan;130(1):16-26. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2008.08.008. Epub 2008 Sep 26.

NK and NKT cells in liver injury and fibrosis.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, 9500 Gilman Drive #0702, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


The innate immune mechanisms of the liver represent an important first line of defense against bacterial products, toxins, and food antigens coming from the intestine. Natural Killer (NK) and Natural Killer T cells (NKT) are components of the innate immune system with increased presence in the liver compared to other organs and have been reported to participate in the inflammatory processes during hepatic diseases. However significant confusion has been noted in this field mainly due to changes in the characterization of these cells as new knowledge accumulates and due to differences in the approaches used for their study. Both cell types can mediate hepatic injury in several models but studies in human liver diseases have not managed to fully explain their functions. However accumulating evidence supports an antifibrotic role of NK cells mainly via an inhibitory effect on hepatic stellate cells by inducing apoptosis and via production of interferon-gamma. Therefore, downregulation of NK cells during most types of liver injury may facilitate liver fibrosis. Data about the role of NKT cells in liver fibrosis are limited. This review will summarize the studies about the role of NK and NKT cells in liver diseases with a special interest in hepatic injury and liver fibrosis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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