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J Immunol. 2004 Mar 1;172(5):3034-41.

NK cells, but not NKT cells, are involved in Pseudomonas aeruginosa exotoxin A-induced hepatotoxicity in mice.

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  • 1Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany.


Pseudomonas aeruginosa exotoxin A (PEA) causes T cell- and Kupffer cell (KC)-dependent liver injury in mice. TNF-alpha as well as IL-18 and perforin are important mediators of liver damage following PEA injection. In this study, we focus on the role of NK and NKT cells in PEA-induced liver toxicity. Depletion of both NK and NKT cells by injection of anti-NK1.1 Ab as well as depletion of NK cells alone by anti-asialo GM1 Ab protected mice from PEA-induced hepatotoxicity, whereas mice lacking only NKT cells were susceptible. Additionally, we observed infiltration of NK cells, T cells, and neutrophils into liver parenchyma after injection of PEA. The number of NKT cells, however, remained unchanged. The increase in intrahepatic NK cells depended on KCs and the TNF-alpha-dependent up-regulation of the adhesion molecule VCAM-1 in the liver, but not on NKT cells. PEA also augmented the cytotoxicity of hepatic NK cells against typical NK target cells (YAC-1 cells). This effect depended on KCs, but not on TNF-alpha or NKT cells. Furthermore, only weak expression of MHC class I was detected on hepatocytes, which was further down-regulated in PEA-treated mice. This could explain the susceptibility of hepatocytes to NK cell cytolytic activity in this model. Our results demonstrate that NK cells, activated and recruited independently of NKT cells, contribute to PEA-induced T cell-dependent liver injury in mice.

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