Experimental models of autoimmune diseases have led to the conclusion that an immune response to nuclear antigens is a sentinel marker for loss of tolerance and potential tissue damage. Various proteins are targets of antinuclear antibodies in a variety of autoimmune diseases, ranging from systemic rheumatologic disorders to diseases affecting specific organs such as the liver. Autoantibodies against specific nuclear constituents have also been used as probes to understand the structure and the function of the targeted components and their relevance to disease pathogenesis. Approximately a quarter of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) have antibodies targeting proteins of the nuclear pore complex (NPC), a multi-protein structure that mediates molecular transport across the nuclear envelope. Autoantibodies against the integral membrane glycoprotein gp210 and nucleoporin p62 appear to be highly specific for PBC, an autoimmune disease characterized by progressive destruction of intrahepatic biliary epithelial cells. This review discusses the diagnostic and clinical relevance of anti-NPC antibodies in PBC and the possibility that this autoimmune response may arise as a result of molecular mimicry.
autoantibody; autoantigen; autoimmunity; nuclear envelope; nuclear pore complex; nucleoporin; primary biliary cirrhosis
The serologic hallmark of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is the presence of antimitochondrial autoantibodies (AMA) directed against the E2 subunit of PDC-E2. The PBC-related autoepitope of PDC-E2 contains lipoic acid, and previous work has demonstrated that mimics of lipoic acid following immunization of mice lead to a PBC-like disease. Furthermore, approximately one third of patients who have ingested excessive amounts of acetaminophen (paracetamol) develop AMA of the same specificity as patients with PBC. Quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) data indicates that acetaminophen metabolites are particularly immunoreactive with AMA, and we submit that in genetically susceptible hosts, electrophilic modification of lipoic acid in PDC-E2 by acetaminophen or similar drugs can facilitate a loss of tolerance and lead to the development of PBC.
Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) has been often coined a model autoimmune disease based on the homogeneity amongst patients, the frequency and similarity of antimitochondrial antibodies, including the highly directed immune response to pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDC-E2). A significant number of patients with PBC suffer from sicca and amongst these, there are patients who also have classic Sjogren's syndrome. Indeed, both PBC and Sjogren's syndrome are characterized by inflammation of target epithelial elements. Both diseases can be considered on the basis of a number of other related clinical aspects, including proposed unique apoptotic features of the target tissue, the role of secretory IgA, and the frequency with which both diseases overlap with each other. Indeed, PBC may be considered a Sjogren's syndrome of the liver, whereas Sjogren's syndrome can be equally discussed as PBC of the salivary glands. Dissection of the genetic predispositions for both diseases and especially the molecular basis of effector mechanisms, will become critical elements in developing new therapies.
Apoptosis; autoantibodies; epithelium; inflammation
Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is considered a model autoimmune disease, with the most highly directed and specific autoantibody in both murine and human autoimmunity, the anti-mitochondrial autoantibody (AMA). However, therapeutic advances in this disease have lagged behind. Herein we have taken advantage of our unique model of murine PBC in which mice immunized with 2-octynoic acid coupled to BSA (2OA-BSA), a compound identified by quantitative structure activity relationships (QSAR) of human AMA binding, develop an intense inflammatory cholangitis with striking similarities to humans with PBC. In particular, we have constructed several unique gene-deleted mice, including mice deleted of IL-12p40, IL-12p35, IFN-γ, IL-23p19, IL-17A, IL-17F and IL-22, immunized these animals with 2OA-BSA and followed the natural history of immunopathology to identify key pathways that might provide clues for successful therapy. Our data indicate that whereas both IL-12/Th1 and IL-23/Th17 are involved in cholangitis, it is the IL-12/Th1 signaling pathway that elicits pathology. In fact, deletion of IFN-γ prevents disease and suppresses autoantibodies. Importantly, deletion of the Th17 cytokines IL-17A and IL-22, but not IL-17F, reduces biliary damage; IL-17A-knockout mice have reduced levels of anti-mitochondrial antibody. We further demonstrate that the production of IFN-γ is significantly decreased in the liver of IL-23p19−/−, IL-17A−/− and IL-22−/− mice compared with controls. However, the ability of T cells to produce IFN-γ was not affected in Th17 cytokine-deficient mice. Our data indicate that a deficient Th17 pathway suppresses the accumulation of IFN-γ producing cells in liver during the early phase of cholangitis. In conclusion, whereas IFN-γ has a pivotal role in the early events involved in the pathogenesis of autoimmune cholangitis induced by 2OA-BSA, the IL-23/Th17 pathway potentiates the effects of IL-12/IFN-γ-mediated immunopathology.
There have been important advances in defining effector mechanisms for several human autoimmune diseases. However, for most human autoimmune diseases, the induction stage is less well defined and there are very few clues on etiology. Our laboratory has focused on defining the molecular basis of autoantibody recognition and epitope modification in primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Our work has demonstrated that antibodies to mitochondria (AMA), the hallmark of disease, are directed against a very conserved site of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDCE2). We have also demonstrated that several chemical xenobiotics, chosen based on quantitative structural activity relationship analysis and rigorous epitope analysis, when coupled to the lysine residue that normally binds the lipoic acid co-factor of PDC-E2, reacts as well or better to PBC sera than native autoantigen. In the present studies, we immunized C57BL/6 mice with one such xenobiotic, 2-octynoic acid (2OA), coupled to bovine serum albumin (BSA) and followed mice for 24 weeks. Animals were studied for appearance of histologic lesions as well as appearance of antibodies to PDC-E2, serum levels of TNF-α and IFN-γ and splenic and liver lymphoid phenotyping by flow cytometry. Mice immunized with 2OA manifest autoimmune cholangitis, typical mitochondrial autoantibodies, increased liver lymphoid cell numbers, an increase in CD8+ liver infiltrating cells, particularly CD8+ T cells that co-express CD44, and finally an elevation of serum TNF-α and IFN-γ. In conclusion, these data provide a persuasive argument in favor of an environmental origin for human PBC.
In our previous work, including analysis of more than 10,000 sera from control patients and patients with a variety of liver diseases, we have demonstrated that with the use of recombinant autoantigens, antimitochondrial autoantibodies (AMA) are only found in PBC and that a positive AMA is virtually pathognomonic of either PBC or future development of PBC. Although the mechanisms leading to the generation of AMA are enigmatic, we have postulated that xenobiotic-induced and/or oxidative modification of mitochondrial autoantigens is a critical step leading to loss of tolerance. This thesis suggests that a severe liver oxidant injury would lead to AMA production. We analyzed 217 serum samples from 69 patients with acute liver failure (ALF) collected up to 24 months post-ALF, compared with controls, for titer and reactivity with the E2 subunits of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDC-E2), branched chain 2-oxo-acid dehydrogenase (BCOADC-E2) and 2-oxo-glutarate dehydrogenase (OGDC-E2). AMA were detected in 28/69 (40.6%) ALF patients with reactivity found against all of the major mitochondrial autoantigens. In addition, and as further controls, sera were also analyzed for autoantibodies to gp210, Sp100, centromere, chromatin, soluble liver antigen (SLA), tissue transglutaminase (tTG) and deaminated gliadin peptides (DGP) where the most frequently detected non-mitochondrial autoantibody was against tTG (57.1% of ALF patients). In conclusion, the strikingly high frequency of AMA in ALF supports the thesis that oxidative stress-induced liver damage may lead to AMA induction. The rapid disappearance of AMA in these patients provides further support for the contention that PBC pathogenesis requires additional factors including genetic susceptibility.
Tolerance; Oxidative injury; Self-reactivity; Epitopes
Background & Aims
Proliferation of liver stem/progenitor cells (LPCs), which can differentiate into hepatocytes or biliary epithelial cells, is often observed in chronically inflamed regions of liver in patients. We investigated how inflammation might promote proliferation of LPCs.
We examined the role of interleukin (IL)-22, a survival factor for hepatocytes, on proliferation of LPCs in patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and in mice. Proliferation of LPCs in mice was induced by feeding a diet that contained 3,5-diethoxycarbonyl-1,4-dihydrocollidine (DDC).
Hepatic expression of IL-22 was increased in patients with HBV and correlated with the grade of inflammation and proliferation of LPCs. Mice on the DDC diet that overexpressed an IL-22 transgene specifically in liver (IL-22TG), or that were infected with an IL-22–expressing adenovirus, had increased proliferation of LPCs. Signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 3, a component of the IL-22 signaling pathway, was activated in LPCs isolated from DDC-fed IL-22TG mice. Deletion of STAT3 from livers of IL-22TG mice reduced proliferation of LPCs. Moreover, the receptors IL-22R1 and IL-10R2 were detected on EpCAM+CD45– LPCs isolated from DDC-fed wild-type mice. Culture of these cells with IL-22 activated STAT3 and led to cell proliferation, but IL-22 had no effect on proliferation of STAT3-deficient EpCAM+CD45– LPCs. IL-22 also activated STAT3 and promoted proliferation of cultured BMOL cells (a mouse LPC line).
In livers of mice and patients with chronic HBV infection, inflammatory cells produce IL-22, which promotes proliferation of LPCs via STAT3. These findings link inflammation with proliferation of LPCs in patients with HBV infection.
immune regulation; viral hepatitis; oval cells; signal transduction
There has been increased interest in the role of B cells in the pathogenesis of primary biliary cirrhosis. Although the vast majority of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis have antimitochondrial antibodies, there is no correlation of antimitochondrial antibody titer and/or presence with disease severity. Further, in murine models of primary biliary cirrhosis, it has been suggested that depletion of B cells may exacerbate biliary pathology. To address this issue, we have focused on detailed phenotypic characterization of mononuclear cell infiltrates surrounding the intrahepatic bile ducts of patients with PBC, PSC, AIH, CH-C and GVHD, including CD3, CD4, CD8, CD20, CD38 and immunoglobulin classes, as well as double immunohistochemical staining for CD38 and IgM. Interestingly, CD20 B lymphocytes, which are a precursor of plasma cells, were found in scattered locations or occasionally forming follicle-like aggregations but were not noted at the proximal location of chronic nonsuppurative destructive cholangitis. In contrast, there was a unique and distinct coronal arrangement of CD38 cells around the intrahepatic ducts in primary biliary cirrhosis but not controls; the majority of such cells were considered plasma cells based on their expression of intracellular immunoglobulins, including IgM and IgG, but not IgA. Patients with primary biliary cirrhosis who manifest this unique coronal arrangement were those with significantly higher titers of antimitochondrial antibodies. These data collectively suggest a role of plasma cells in the specific destruction of intrahepatic bile ducts in primary biliary cirrhosis and highlight the increasing interest in plasma cells and autoimmunity.
antimitochondrial antibodies; primary biliary cirrhosis; plasma cells; coronal arrangement
Susceptibility to primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is strongly associated with HLA region polymorphisms. To determine if associations can be explained by classical HLA determinants we studied Italian 676 cases and 1440 controls with genotyped with dense single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for which classical HLA alleles and amino acids were imputed. Although previous genome-wide association studies and our results show stronger SNP associations near DQB1, we demonstrate that the HLA signals can be attributed to classical DRB1 and DPB1 genes. Strong support for the predominant role of DRB1 is provided by our conditional analyses. We also demonstrate an independent association of DPB1. Specific HLA-DRB1 genes (*08, *11 and *14) account for most of the DRB1 association signal. Consistent with previous studies, DRB1*08 (p = 1.59 × 10−11) was the strongest predisposing allele where as DRB1*11 (p = 1.42 × 10−10) was protective. Additionally DRB1*14 and the DPB1 association (DPB1*03:01) (p = 9.18 × 10−7) were predisposing risk alleles. No signal was observed in the HLA class 1 or class 3 regions. These findings better define the association of PBC with HLA and specifically support the role of classical HLA-DRB1 and DPB1 genes and alleles in susceptibility to PBC.
genetic risk; risk allele; imputation; antigen binding pocket; autoimmune disease
Primary biliary cirrhosis is an autoimmune disease with female predominance that leads to liver failure. The goal of this study was to identify reproductive risk factors associated with this disease.
We compared 182 cases of PBC with 225 age- and sex-matched friend controls to examine the role of reproductive factors. The survey instrument was developed using standardized questions obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III.
A total of 126/182 cases (69%) and 141/225 (62.6%) friend controls responded to the survey. More cases than controls reported ever having genitourinary infection [adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 2.12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.01, 4.42] among those without a personal or family history of autoimmune disease. The most notable finding was that cases reported significantly more pregnancies than controls (p = 0.008). The adjusted OR for each additional pregnancy among those without a personal or family history of autoimmune disease was 1.40 (95% CI 1.14, 1.7). More controls (24.4%) than cases (16.0%) were nulliparous. Cases reported having five or more children (16.0%) with double the frequency of controls (8.2%).
The association reported herein, between primary biliary cirrhosis and gravidity, is particularly significant because of the overwhelming female predominance.
Pregnancy; Reproductive; Women’s Health
autoimmunity; innate immunity; macrophages; biliary tree; apoptosis
The E2 component of mitochondrial pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC-E2) is the immunodominant autoantigen of primary biliary cirrhosis. Whereas lipoylation of PDC-E2 is essential for enzymatic activity and predominates under normal conditions, other biochemical systems exist that also target the lysine residue, including acylation of fatty acids or xenobiotics and ubiquitinylation. More importantly, the immunogenicity can be affected by derivatization of the lysine residue, as the recognition of lipoylated PDC-E2 by patient autoantibodies is enhanced compared with octanoylated PDC-E2. Furthermore, our laboratory has shown that various xenobiotic modifications of a peptide representing the immunodominant region of PDC-E2 are immunoreactive against patient sera. The only purported regulatory system that prevents the accumulation of potentially autoreactive PDC-E2 is glutathionylation, in which the lysine-lipoic acid moiety is further modified with glutathione during apoptosis. Interestingly, this system is found in several cell lines, including HeLa, Jurkat, and Caco-2 cells, but not in cholangiocytes and salivary gland epithelial cells, both of which are targets for destruction in primary biliary cirrhosis. Hence, the failure of this or other regulatory system(s) may overwhelm the immune system with immunogenic PDC-E2 that can initiate the breakdown of tolerance in a genetically susceptible individual. In this review the authors survey the data available on the biochemical life of PDC-E2, with particular emphasis on the lysine residue and its known interactions with machinery involved in various posttranslational modifications.
Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic cholestatic liver disease in which an immune-mediated injury targets the small intrahepatic bile ducts. PBC is further characterized by highly specific serum antimitochondrial autoantibodies (AMA) and autoreactive T cells, a striking female predominance, a strong genetic susceptibility, and a plethora of candidate environmental factors to trigger the disease onset. For these reasons PBC appears ideal to represent the developments of the clonal selection theory over the past decades. First, a sufficiently potent autoimmunogenic stimulus in PBC would require the coexistence of numerous pre-existing conditions (mostly genetic, as recently illustrated by genome-wide association studies and animal models) to perpetuate the destruction of the biliary epithelium by the immune system via the persistence of forbidden clones. Second, the proposed modifications of mitochondrial autoantigens caused by infectious agents and/or xenobiotics well illustrate the possibility that peculiar changes in the antigen structure and flexibility may contribute to tolerance breakdown. Third, the unique apoptotic features demonstrated for cholangiocytes are the ideal setting for the development of mitochondrial autoantigen presentation to the immune system through macrophages and AMA thus turning the non traditional mitochondrial antigen into a traditional one. This article will review the current knowledge on PBC etiology and pathogenesis in light of the clonal selection theory developments.
anti-mitochondrial antibodies; autoimmunity; environmental factors; thymic selection; tolerance
Liver granuloma are recognized as specific histological features in primary biliary cirrhosis but their significance remains enigmatic. Similarly, there are limited data on the impact of hyper-IgM on granulomas while in both cases a role of B cells has been hypothesized. The present study investigates a significant number of tissue samples from PBC and control livers as well as other granulomatous diseases to investigate the representation of dendritic cells and the role of IgM in PBC-associated granulomas. We demonstrate that the classical cellular marker for dendritc cells CD11c is highly expressed in hepatic granulomas from PBC liver samples, along with markers of immature dendritic cells, i.e. CD11b, low MHC II, IL-23 and CCR7 and CD83 expression, and C1q high expression. PBC patients with granulomas had significantly higher serum IgM levels and PBC granulomas were surrounded by B and plasma cells. Using ad in vitro approach we further demonstrate that IgM inhibits LPS-induced maturation of myeloid dendritic cells, as well as LPS-induced activation of NF-κB and the expression of proinflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-12, and IFN-β. In conclusion, we propose that immature dendritic cells are key factors in liver granulomas and that the commonly observed hyper-IgM may contribute to their appearance in patients with PBC.
See related article: http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/content/10/1/14
Monosodium glutamate; Intake; Metabolic syndrome
The cross talk of CD40/CD40 ligand (CD40L) plays a key role in CD4+ T cell priming, B-cell terminal maturation, and immunoglobulin (Ig) class-switch recombination. Genetic defects in the CD40L lead to a disorder characterized by elevated concentrations of serum IgM and immunodeficiency. Patients with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC) characteristically show circulating anti-mitochondrial antibodies (AMAs), liver infiltrating autoreactive T lymphocytes against mitochondrial antigens, and high levels of IgM. We hypothesized that CD40L may play a key role in the pathogenesis of the elevated serum IgM and analyzed genetic and epigenetic modifications of the gene coding for CD40L in CD4+ and CD8+ T cells isolated from circulating mononuclear cells from PBC patients and healthy controls. We herein demonstrate significantly lower levels of DNA methylation of the CD40L promoter in CD4+ T cells from PBC patients as compared with controls, and this decreased methylation was inversely correlated with levels of serum IgM in PBC patients. In conclusion, the findings of an absence of genetic modifications of the CD40L gene in concert with decreased DNA methylation of the CD40L promoter in PBC patients suggests that environmental factors rather than genetics must play a major role in the pathogenesis of elevated serum IgM in PBC.
Epigenetics; autoimmunity; methylation; CD40-CD40L
Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) are the major forms of autoimmune liver diseases each characterized by the destruction of a specific liver cell type and the presence of differing auto-antibodies. We took a proteomic approach utilizing in situ matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI MS) to obtain profiles directly from liver samples of patients with PBC, PSC, AIH and controls. The ability to precisely localize the region for acquisition of MALDI MS allowed us to obtain profiles from bile ducts, inflammatory infiltrates and hepatocytes from each biopsy sample. Analysis tools developed to identify peaks and compare peaks across diseases and cell types were used to develop models to classify the samples. Using an initial set of testing samples from PBC patients and controls, we identified unique peaks present in bile ducts, inflammatory infiltrates and hepatocytes that could classify samples in a validation cohort with 88–91% accuracy. Interestingly, profiles of PSC and AIH did not differ significantly from PBC. Identification of proteins in these peaks may represent novel autoantigens or effector molecules. These findings illustrate the potential of a proteomic approach to autoimmune diseases with in situ MALDI MS.
autoimmune hepatitis; mass spectrometry; primary biliary cirrhosis; primary sclerosing cholangitis
Our laboratory has hypothesized that xenobiotic modification of the native lipoyl moiety of the major mitochondrial autoantigen, the E2 subunit of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC-E2), may lead to loss of self-tolerance in primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). This thesis is based on the finding of readily detectable levels of immunoreactivity of PBC sera against extensive panels of protein microarrays containing mimics of the inner lipoyl domain of PDC-E2 and subsequent quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSARs). Importantly, we have demonstrated that murine immunization with one such mimic, 2-octynoic acid coupled to bovine serum albumin (BSA), induces antimitochondrial antibodies (AMAs) and cholangitis. Based upon these data, we have focused on covalent modifications of the lipoic acid disulfide ring and subsequent analysis of such xenobiotics coupled to a 15mer of PDC-E2 for immunoreactivity against a broad panel of sera from patients with PBC and controls. Our results demonstrate that AMA-positive PBC sera demonstrate marked reactivity against 6,8-bis(acetylthio)octanoic acid, implying that chemical modification of the lipoyl ring, i.e. disruption of the S-S disulfide, renders lipoic acid to its reduced form that will promote xenobiotic modification. This observation is particularly significant in light of the function of the lipoyl1oiety in electron transport of which the catalytic disulfide constantly opens and closes and, thus, raises the intriguing thesis that common electrophilic agents, i.e. acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may lead to xenobiotic modification in genetically susceptible individuals that results in the generation of AMAs and ultimately clinical PBC.
The clearance of apoptotic cells is a highly regulated mechanism, normally associated with anti-inflammatory response. During early stages of apoptosis the cell is promptly recognized and engulfed by professional phagocytes or tissue cells to avoid the outflow of intracellular content and limit the immunological reaction against released antigens. However, increasing evidences suggest that impairment in the uptake of apoptotic cell debris is linked to the development of autoimmunity. In fact, autoantigens have been demonstrated to be content within apoptotic bodies and apoptotic cells seems to be critical in the presentation of antigens, activation of innate immunity and regulation of macrophage cytokine secretion.
We herein review the known mechanisms for regulating the uptake of the products of apoptosis in the development of autoimmunity.
Cell clearance; lupus; autoantibodies
In nearly every multifactorial human disease, there are three periods that characterize our understanding and definition. First, there is a period in which there is rapid accumulation of descriptive data. Second, there is a longer and slower period as information is obtained that redefines and expands basic and clinical knowledge that lacks the final and important area of understanding aetiology and therapeutic intervention. Third, which is much less common for most diseases, is the vigorous definition of pathobiology and treatment. These phases are well illustrated by our current understanding of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). The term PBC was first used nearly 60 years ago and for the first 40 or so years, the primary research efforts were directed at clinical definitions and pathology. Subsequently, with the advent of molecular biology, there began a rigorous dissection of the immune response and, in particular, a better understanding of anti-mitochondrial antibodies. These efforts have greatly helped in our understanding of not only the effector mechanisms of disease, but also the uniqueness of the primary target tissue, biliary epithelium. However, this research has still not led to successful translation for specific therapy.
Regulatory T (Tregs) cells are important contributors to the maintenance of immune tolerance in the periphery, and deficiency of Tregs is associated with various immunopathic diseases. Murine models of autoimmune and autoinflammatory disorders have helped to elucidate how Tregs are involved in these diseases. A feature in common among human and mice that lack one or another of the key Treg subsets is the occurrence of mucosal inflammation. The relatively fragile mucosal surface represents a complex system that is normally well equipped to ward off harmful pathogens yet at the same time is inhibitory to destructive inflammatory responses to biologically needed (probiotic) microorganisms, or other common environmental antigens e.g. nutrients. We here discuss the importance of Tregs in maintaining tolerance at mucosal surfaces and the outcomes of deficiency of Treg function. The intestinal tract and its inflammatory diseases provide the “point of departure” for discussion, but similar considerations could apply to other mucosal linings exposed to the environment such as other members of the digestive system. However the lungs, bile ducts, urogenital tract and other mucosal surfaces are susceptible to poorly understood inflammatory states that possibly depend on dysfunction of Treg cells. Finally there are now potential therapies predicated on reconstitution of effective function of Treg cells.
Mucosal immunity; Regulatory T cells; FoxP3; Transforming growth factor; Immunotherapy
Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is an autoimmune disease of the liver characterized by progressive bile duct destruction eventually leading to cirrhosis and liver failure. The serological hallmark of the disease is the presence of circulating antimitochondrial antibodies (AMA). These reflect the presence of autoreactive T and B cells to the culprit antigens, the E2 subunits of mitochondrial 2-oxo-acid dehydrogenase enzymes, chiefly pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDC-E2). The disease results from a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors. Genetic predisposition is indicated by the higher familial incidence of the disease particularly among siblings and the high concordance rate among monozygotic twins. Environmental triggering events appear crucial to disrupt a pre-existing unstable immune tolerance of genetic origin allowing, after a long latency, the emergence of clinical disease. Initiating mimotopes of the vulnerable epitope of the PDC-E2 autoantigen can be derived from microbes that utilize the PDC enzyme or, alternatively, environmental xenobiotics/chemical compounds that modify the structure of native proteins to make them immunogenic. A further alternative as a source of antigen is PDC-E2 derived from apoptotic cells. In the effector phase the biliary ductular cell, by reason of its proclivity to express the antigen PDC-E2 in the course of apoptosis, undergoes a multilineage immune attack comprised of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and antibody. In this article, we critically review the available evidence on etiopathogenesis of PBC and present interpretations of complex data, new developments and theories, and nominate directions for future research.
Autoantibodies; Autoreactive T cells; 2-oxoacid dehydrogenase; Biliary epithelial cells; Primary biliary cirrhosis
A major enigma of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is the selective targeting of biliary cells. Our laboratory has reported that following apoptosis human intrahepatic biliary epithelial cells (HiBEC) translocate the E2 subunit of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex immunologically intact into apoptotic bodies, forming an apotope. However, the cell type and specificity of this reaction has not been fully defined. To address this issue we have investigated whether PDC-E2, BCOADC-E2, OGDC-E2, four additional inner mitochondrial enzymes and four nuclear antigens remain immunologically intact with respect to post-apoptotic translocation in HiBEC and 3 additional control epithelial cells. We report that all three 2-oxo acid dehydrogenase enzymes share the ability to remain intact within the apotope of HiBEC. Interestingly the E2 subunit of the branched chain 2-oxo acid dehydrogenase complex also remained intact in the other cell types tested. We extended the data using 95 AMA+ and 19 AMA- PBC and 76 control sera for reactivity against the 7 mitochondrial proteins studied herein and also the ability of AMA- sera to react with HIBEC apotopes. Sera from 3/95 AMA+ sera, but none of the controls, reacted with 2, 4-dienoyl CoA reductase 1 (DECR1), an enzyme also present intact only in the HiBEC apotope; DECR1 has not been previously associated with any autoimmune disease. Finally the specificity of HIBEC apotope reactivity was confined to AMA+ sera. In conclusion, we submit that the biliary specificity of PBC is secondary to the unique processes of biliary apoptosis.
Apoptosis; human intrahepatic biliary epithelial cells; E2 subunit of 2-oxoacid dehydrogenase complex; nuclear antigens; autoimmunity