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Immunology. 2020 Mar 16. doi: 10.1111/imm.13193. [Epub ahead of print]

The Liver as an Immunological Barrier Redefined by Single Cell Analysis.

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Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, Centre for Liver and Gastrointestinal Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.
NIHR Birmingham Liver Biomedical Research Centre, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK.
Division of Infection & Immunity, University College London, London, UK.


The liver is a front-line immune tissue that plays a major role in the detection, capture and clearance of pathogens and foreign antigens entering the blood-stream, especially from the gut. Our largest internal organ maintains this immune barrier in the face of constant exposure to external but harmless antigens through a highly specialised network of liver-adapted immune cells. Mapping the immune resident compartment in the liver has been challenging because it requires multimodal single-cell deep phenotyping approaches of often rare cell populations in difficult to access samples. We can now measure the RNA transcripts present in a single cell (scRNA-seq), which is revolutionising the way we characterise cell types. scRNA-seq has been applied to the diverse array of immune cells present in murine and human livers in health and disease. Here we summarise how emerging single cell technologies have advanced or redefined our understanding of the immunological barrier provided by the liver.


Liver; RNA-seq; immune barrier; liver resident cells; single cells; transcriptomics


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