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J Immunol. 2009 Mar 1;182(5):3278-84. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803417.

End-organ damage in a mouse model of fulminant liver inflammation requires CD4+ T cell production of IFN-gamma but is independent of Fas.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH 03756, USA.


Fulminant inflammation in the liver is often accompanied by the accumulation of IFN-gamma-producing T cells. The BALB/c-Tgfb1(-/-) mouse exhibits extensive, spontaneously developing necroinflammation in the liver, accompanied by the accumulation of IFN-gamma-producing CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells. Liver damage depends on the presence of an intact Ifng gene. We determined the relevant cellular source(s) of IFN-gamma. In Tgfb1(-/-) liver, CD4(+) T cells were more numerous than CD8(+) T cells and NK cells, and produced more IFN-gamma. Depletion of CD4(+) T cells eliminated both the elevation in plasma IFN-gamma and aspartate aminotransferase, whereas depletion of CD8(+) T cells did not. Rag1(-/-)Tgfb1(-/-) mice exhibited neither IFN-gamma elevation nor tissue damage, indicating that NK cells are not sufficient. IFN-gamma was required for strong overexpression of class II genes but not for CD4(+) T cell activation, oligoclonal expansion, or accumulation in the liver. The T cell inhibitory molecule PD-L1 was strongly expressed in Tgfb1(-/-) livers, ruling out a lack of PD-L1 expression as an explanation for aberrant liver T cell activation. Finally, whereas Tgfb1(-/-) CD4(+) T cells overexpressed Fas ligand, hepatocellular damage was observed in Fas(lpr/lpr)Tgfb1(-/-) mice, indicating that liver pathology is Fas independent. We conclude that liver damage in this model of fulminant autoimmune hepatitis is driven by CD4(+) T cell production of IFN-gamma, is independent of both CD8(+) T cells and the Fas ligand/Fas pathway, and is not explained by a lack of PD-L1 expression.

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