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Gastroenterology. 2007 Jul;133(1):278-87. Epub 2007 Apr 20.

Oligoclonal expansions of CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells in the target organ of patients with biliary atresia.

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Sections of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, The Children's Hospital, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, Colorado 80218, USA. <>



Biliary atresia is an inflammatory, fibrosclerosing neonatal cholangiopathy, characterized by a periductal infiltrate composed of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells. The pathogenesis of this disease has been proposed to involve a virus-induced, subsequent autoreactive T cell-mediated bile duct injury. Antigen-specific T-cell immunity involves clonal expansion of T cells expressing similar T-cell receptor (TCR) variable regions of the beta-chain (Vbeta). We hypothesized that the T cells in biliary atresia tissue expressed related TCRs, suggesting that the expansion was in direct response to antigenic stimulation.


The TCR Vbeta repertoire of T cells from the liver, extrahepatic bile duct remnants, and peripheral blood of biliary atresia and other cholestatic disease controls were characterized by fluorescent-activated cell sorter analysis, and TCR junctional region nucleotide sequencing was performed on expanded TCR Vbeta regions to confirm oligoclonality.


FACS analysis revealed Vbeta subset expansions of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells from the liver or bile duct remnant in all patients with biliary atresia and only 1 control. The CD4(+) TCR expansions were limited to Vbeta3, -5, -9, and -12 T-cell subsets and the CD8(+) TCR Vbeta expansions were predominantly Vbeta20. Each Vbeta subset expansion was composed of oligoclonal populations of T cells.


Biliary atresia is associated with oligoclonal expansions of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells within liver and extrahepatic bile duct remnant tissues, indicating the presence of activated T cells reacting to specific antigenic stimulation. Future studies entail identifying the specific antigen(s) responsible for T-cell activation and bile duct injury.

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