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Hum Immunol. 2004 Jul;65(7):683-91.

Simultaneous expression of Th1 cytokines and IL-4 confers severe characteristics to type I autoimmune hepatitis in children.

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División Inmunogenética, Hospital de Clínicas José de San Martín, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Av. Córdoba 2351 (1120) Buenos Aires, Argentina.


To investigate the immunopathogenic mechanisms of type I autoimmune hepatitis in children, we analyzed by quantitative or semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction the expression of cytokines interferon (IFN)-gamma, interleukin (IL)-12p40, IL-18, IL-4, IL-10, and IL-12R beta 2. In addition, liver and peripheral blood was collected to investigate the expression of the natural killer T (NKT) cell marker V alpha 24. The presence of NKT cells in hepatic lesions were also identified by immunohistochemistry. The analysis was performed on liver biopsies from 25 children with type I autoimmune hepatitis. As disease controls, we included six children with hepatitis C virus-related chronic hepatitis and nine control livers. The expression of IFN-gamma and IL-12p40 was not detected in controls but was clearly upregulated in pathologic biopsies. In addition, these samples showed an increased expression of IL-18 (p = 0.0003), IL-4 (p = 0.0055), and IL-12R beta 2 (p = 0.007). Western blot analysis confirmed the expression of IL-12p40 and IL-18. However, for IL-18, we detected only the immature biologically inactive polypeptide. The V alpha 24 transcripts were found increased in the liver (p = 0.0007) where V alpha 24(+) cells were also localized, but decreased in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (p = 0.041). In addition to a type I immune response, NKT cells might play a substantial role in the pathogenesis of type I autoimmune hepatitis in children.

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