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Gastroenterology. 2004 Nov;127(5):1525-39.

Negative regulation of liver regeneration by innate immunity (natural killer cells/interferon-gamma).

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NIAAA, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.



Hepatic lymphocytes are composed mainly of natural killer (NK) cells and NKT cells, which play key roles in innate immune responses against pathogens and tumors in the liver. This report analyzes the effects of activation of innate immunity by viral infection or the toll-like receptor 3 (TLR3) ligand on liver regeneration.


The partial hepatectomy (PHx) method was used as a model of liver regeneration. Murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV) infection and the TLR3 ligand polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid [poly(I:C)] were used to activate innate immunity.


NK cells are activated after PHx, as evidenced by producing interferon (IFN)-gamma. Infection with MCMV or injection of poly(I:C) further activates NK cells to produce IFN-gamma and attenuates liver regeneration in the PHx model. Depletion of NK cells or disruption of either the IFN-gamma gene or the IFN-gamma receptor gene enhances liver regeneration and partially abolishes the negative effects of MCMV and polyI:C on liver regeneration, whereas NKT cells may only play a minor role in suppression of liver regeneration. Adoptive transfer of IFN-gamma +/+ NK cells, but not IFN-gamma -/- NK cells, restores the ability of polyI:C to attenuate liver regeneration in NK-depleted mice. Finally, administration of polyI:C or IFN-gamma enhances expression of several antiproliferative proteins, including STAT1, IRF-1, and p21cip1/waf1 in the livers of partially hepatectomized mice.


Our findings suggest that viral infection and the TLR3 ligand negatively regulate liver regeneration via activation of innate immunity (NK/IFN-gamma), which may play an important role in the pathogenesis of viral hepatitis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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