The role of intrahepatic CD8+ T cell trapping and NK1.1+ cells in liver-mediated immune regulation

Oren Shibolet, Ruslana Alper, Lydia Zolotarov, Shivti Trop, Barbara Thalenfeld, Dean Engelhardt, Elazar Rabbani, Yaron Ilan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The liver was previously suggested as a site of lymphocyte clearance. Liver-associated lymphocytes that express NK1.1 marker (NKT LAL) play a role in immune modulation. Aim: To determine the role of the liver and of NKT LAL in determining the CD4+/CD8+ balance during tolerance induction. Methods: Colitis was induced in C57 mice by intracolonic instillation of trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (TNBS). Immune tolerance was induced via five oral feedings of colitis-extracted proteins (CEP) from TNBS-colitis colonic wall, starting on the day of colitis induction (group A). Control mice were fed with BSA (group B). To determine the role of NKT cells in immune modulation, NK1.1 depletion was performed in nonfed (group C) and fed (group D) mice. To further evaluate the role of NKT cells in this model, mice in group E were tolerized following NKT depletion. To determine the effect of NKT depletion in a tolerized environment, tolerized mice in group F were NKT depleted following tolerance induction. Peripheral and intrahepatic NK1.1+ and CD4+/CD8+ T cells were determined in all groups. Colitis was assessed by standard clinical and histologic scores. Serum cytokines levels were measured by ELISA. Results: Oral tolerance induction led to a marked alleviation of colitis as manifested by a significant improvement of the clinical, macroscopic, and microscopic scores of colitis (group A vs. group B). NK1.1+ depletion without tolerance induction had a favorable effect on colitis (C). Depletion of NKT LAL prevented the ability to induce tolerance (group D). However, induction of tolerance following NK1.1+ depletion, and NK1.1+ depletion following tolerance induction led to a marked improvement of colitis (groups E and F). Tolerance induction led to a significant increase in NKT LAL numbers. The peripheral CD4+/CD8+ ratio increased up to 3-fold in tolerized vs. non-tolerized mice. A similar increase was observed in NKT-depleted healthy mice in groups C, E, and F (P < 0.005). In contrast, NK1.1+ depletion in the presence of antigen in the bowel led to a reverse effect with a significant decrease in the peripheral CD4+/CD8+ ratio. An opposite effect was observed in the intrahepatic CD4+/CD8+. The peripheral/intrahepatic CD4+/CD8+ ratio increased significantly in tolerized and in healthy mice (A, D, E, F, P < 0.005). In contrast, NK1.1+ depleted fed mice in group C manifested a marked decrease in the peripheral/intrahepatic CD4+/CD8+ ratio. Induction of tolerance led to a marked increase in the IL-10/interferon γ (IFNγ) and IL-4/IFNγ ratios. Conclusions: In the experimental colitis model, the liver is an important site for CD8+ accumulation during tolerance induction in a process that is independent of NK1.1+ cells. NK1.1+ cells play a dual role in the pro/anti-inflammatory balance. In the presence of antigen, these lymphocytes may be accountable for keeping an anti-inflammatory lymphocyte balance. However, in the absence of antigen, they may induce a pro-inflammatory shift.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-92
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • 2,4,6- trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid
  • Experimental colitis
  • IFNγ
  • Interferon γ
  • LAL
  • Liver-associated lymphocytes
  • NK1.1 T cells
  • Oral tolerance
  • TGFβ1
  • TNBS
  • TNFα
  • Transforming growth factor β1
  • Tumor necrosis factor α


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