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Clin Exp Immunol. 1992 Apr;88(1):45-9.

Liver-infiltrating T helper cells in autoimmune chronic active hepatitis stimulate the production of autoantibodies against the human asialoglycoprotein receptor in vitro.

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First Department of Internal Medicine, University of Mainz, Germany.


Autoantibodies against the human asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGPR) occur in the sera of patients with autoimmune liver disorders. Liver-infiltrating T cell clones that specifically recognize the ASGPR have been described in patients with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis (AI-CAH) and primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Recently, we have shown that peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from patients with AI-CAH or PBC but not chronic viral hepatitis secreted anti-ASGPR antibodies in vitro. In this study we characterized the influence of liver-infiltrating T cells on the secretion of ASGPR-specific autoantibodies by autologous B cells in cell culture supernatants. T cell clones from liver biopsies of three patients with chronic autoimmune liver disorders (one with AI-CAH, two with PBC) were isolated and investigated for their proliferative response to soluble ASGPR and their helper function provided to autoantibody-secreting B lymphocytes. PBMC from these patients secreted autoantibodies spontaneously in their cell culture supernatants and showed a proliferative response to ASGPR. T cell-depleted PBMC, however, lacked spontaneous antibody secretion. Four CD4+CD8- liver-infiltrating T cell clones showed a proliferative response to ASGPR and also induced spontaneous anti-ASGPR antibody production in cell culture supernatants when added to autologous T cell depleted PBMC. Activated supernatants of these T cell clones failed to induce antibody production. None of seven CD4+CD8- and two CD4-CD8+ T cell clones non-responding to ASGPR provided this help for antibody secretion. Anti-ASGPR secretion in vitro could not be inhibited by the addition of MoAbs raised against monomorphic determinants on HLA class II molecules. The addition of purified ASGPR or polyclonal-activating pokeweed mitogen showed no influence on the production of autoantibodies in these cultures. These data show that B lymphocytes require T cell help for the production of ASGPR-specific antibodies. This help can be provided by ASGPR-responsive T helper cells via cellular interactions.

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