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Clin Dev Immunol. 2011;2011:868345. doi: 10.1155/2011/868345. Epub 2011 Nov 29.

Antitumor immunity produced by the liver Kupffer cells, NK cells, NKT cells, and CD8 CD122 T cells.

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Department of Immunology and Microbiology, National Defense Medical College, Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan.


Mouse and human livers contain innate immune leukocytes, NK cells, NKT cells, and macrophage-lineage Kupffer cells. Various bacterial components, including Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands and an NKT cell ligand (α-galactocylceramide), activate liver Kupffer cells, which produce IL-1, IL-6, IL-12, and TNF. IL-12 activates hepatic NK cells and NKT cells to produce IFN-γ, which further activates hepatic T cells, in turn activating phagocytosis and cytokine production by Kupffer cells in a positive feedback loop. These immunological events are essentially evoked to protect the host from bacterial and viral infections; however, these events also contribute to antitumor and antimetastatic immunity in the liver by activated liver NK cells and NKT cells. Bystander CD8(+)CD122(+) T cells, and tumor-specific memory CD8(+)T cells, are also induced in the liver by α-galactocylceramide. Furthermore, adoptive transfer experiments have revealed that activated liver lymphocytes may migrate to other organs to inhibit tumor growth, such as the lungs and kidneys. The immunological mechanism underlying the development of hepatocellular carcinoma in cirrhotic livers in hepatitis C patients and liver innate immunity as a double-edged sword (hepatocyte injury/regeneration, septic shock, autoimmune disease, etc.) are also discussed.

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