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J Immunol. 2006 Feb 15;176(4):2152-60.

P2X7 receptors regulate NKT cells in autoimmune hepatitis.

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  • 1Departments of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, 90033, USA.


Adenine nucleotides induce danger signals in T cells via purinergic receptors, raising the question whether they exert similar effects on innate immunity. Here we show that micromolar concentrations of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) induce a rapid increase of annexin V staining in NKT cells in vitro, a response that requires expression of P2X(7)Rs. Consistent with this result, treatment of mice with NAD causes a temporary decrease of NKT cells in the liver and protects from Con A- and alpha-galactosylceramide-induced hepatitis, both of which require functional NKT cells. Resistance to liver injury is associated with decreased cytokine production by NKT cells in NAD-treated mice. In contrast, when NAD is injected into Con A- or alpha-galactosylceramide-primed mice, liver injury is exacerbated and cytokine production by NKT cells is increased. This effect is caused by P2X(7)R-mediated stimulation of activated NKT cells. In agreement, mice lacking P2X(7)Rs on lymphocytes suffer reduced liver injury, and animals lacking ADP-ribosyltransferase, the enzyme that uses NAD to attach ADP-ribosyl groups to cell surfaces, are also resistant to Con A-induced hepatitis. These results prompt the conclusion that engagement of P2X(7)Rs on NKT cells inhibits naive, while stimulating activated cells, resulting in suppression or stimulation of autoimmune hepatitis.

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