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Am J Transplant. 2016 Jun;16(6):1653-80. doi: 10.1111/ajt.13749. Epub 2016 Mar 21.

Functional Immune Anatomy of the Liver-As an Allograft.

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Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA.
Department of Pathology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.
Department of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Department of Surgery, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH.
Department of Diagnostic Pathology, Shizuoka Cancer Center, Shizuoka, Japan.
Center for Biologic Imaging, Cell Biology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.


The liver is an immunoregulatory organ in which a tolerogenic microenvironment mitigates the relative "strength" of local immune responses. Paradoxically, necro-inflammatory diseases create the need for most liver transplants. Treatment of hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and acute T cell-mediated rejection have redirected focus on long-term allograft structural integrity. Understanding of insults should enable decades of morbidity-free survival after liver replacement because of these tolerogenic properties. Studies of long-term survivors show low-grade chronic inflammatory, fibrotic, and microvascular lesions, likely related to some combination of environment insults (i.e. abnormal physiology), donor-specific antibodies, and T cell-mediated immunity. The resultant conundrum is familiar in transplantation: adequate immunosuppression produces chronic toxicities, while lightened immunosuppression leads to sensitization, immunological injury, and structural deterioration. The "balance" is more favorable for liver than other solid organ allografts. This occurs because of unique hepatic immune physiology and provides unintended benefits for allografts by modulating various afferent and efferent limbs of allogenic immune responses. This review is intended to provide a better understanding of liver immune microanatomy and physiology and thereby (a) the potential structural consequences of low-level, including allo-antibody-mediated injury; and (b) how liver allografts modulate immune reactions. Special attention is given to the microvasculature and hepatic mononuclear phagocytic system.

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