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1.  Clonality, Activated Antigen Specific CD8+ T Cells and Development of Autoimmune Cholangitis in dnTGFβRII Mice 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2013;58(3):1094-1104.
There are several murine models described with features similar to human primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Amongst these models, the one which has the closest serologic features to PBC is a mouse with a T cell-restricted expression of the dominant negative transforming growth factor β receptor type II (dnTGFβRII). Our work has demonstrated that CD8+ T cells from dnTGFβRII mice transfer autoimmune cholangitis to Rag1-/- recipients. However, it remained unclear whether the autoimmune cholangitis was secondary to an intrinsic function within CD8+ T cells or due to the abnormal TGFβR environment within which CD8+ T cells were generated. To address this mechanistic issue, we utilized our dnTGFβRII, OT-I/Rag1-/-, OT-II/Rag1-/- mice and in addition generated OT-I/dnTGFβRII/Rag1-/-, and OT-II/dnTGFβRII/Rag1-/- mice in which the entire T cell repertoire was replaced with ovalbumin (OVA) specific CD8+ or CD4+ T cells, respectively. Importantly, neither the parental OT-I/dnTGFβRII/Rag1-/- mice and/or OT-II/dnTGFβRII/Rag1-/- mice developed cholangitis. However, adoptive transfer demonstrated that only transfer of CD8+ T cells from dnTGFβRII mice but not CD8+ T cells from OT-I/Rag -/- mice or from OT-I/dnTGFβRII/Rag1-/- mice transferred disease. These data were not secondary to absence of CD4+ T cell help since a combination of CD8+ T cells from OT-I/dnTGFβRII/Rag1-/- and CD4+ T cells from OT II/dnTGFβRII/Rag1-/- or CD8+ T cells from OT-I/dnTGFβRII/Rag1-/- with CD4+ T cells from OT-II/Rag1-/- mice failed to transfer disease. In conclusion, defective TGFβRII signaling, in addition to clonal CD8+ T cells that target biliary cells, are required for induction of autoimmune cholangitis.
PMCID: PMC3716874  PMID: 23532950
primary biliary cirrhosis; murine models; autoimmunity; cholangitis
2.  AMA recognition and structural integrity of the inner lipoyl domain of the E2 subunit of pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC-E2)1 
Antimitochondrial autoantibodies (AMA), the serological hallmark of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) are directed against the lipoyl domain of the E2 subunit of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDC-E2). However, comprehensive analysis of the amino acid residues of PDC-E2 lipoyl beta sheet with AMA specificity is lacking. Herein, we postulated that specific residues within the lipoyl domain are critical to AMA recognition by maintaining conformational integrity. We systematically replaced each of 19 residue peptides of the inner lipoyl domain with alanine and analyzed these mutants for reactivities against 60 PBC and 103 control sera. Based on these data, we then constructed mutants with 2, 3, or 4 replacements and, in addition, probed the structure of the substituted domains using thiol-specific spin labeling and electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) of a 5Ile-> Ala and 12Ile->Ala double mutant. Single alanine replacement at 5Ile, 12Ile and 15Glu significantly reduced AMA recognition. In addition, mutants with 2, 3, or 4 replacements at 5Ile, 12Ile and 15Glu reduced AMA reactivity even further. Indeed, EPR reveals a highly flexible structure within the 5Ile and 12Ile double-alanine mutant. Autoreactivity is largely focused on specific residues in the PDC-E2 lipoyl domain critical in maintaining the lipoyl loop conformation necessary for AMA recognition. Collectively, the AMA binding studies and EPR analysis demonstrate the necessity of the lipoyl beta sheet structural conformation in anti-PDC-E2 recognition.
PMCID: PMC3759514  PMID: 23894195
Autoantibodies; primary biliary cirrhosis; xenobiotics; conformational structure
3.  B cell depletion with anti-CD20 ameliorates autoimmune cholangitis but exacerbates colitis in dnTGF-βRII mice 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2009;50(6):1893-1903.
The treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) with conventional immunosuppressive drugs has been relatively disappointing and there have been few efforts in defining a role for the newer biological agents useful in rheumatoid arthritis and other systemic autoimmune diseases. In this study we took advantage of dnTGF-βRII mice, a mouse model of autoimmune cholangitis, to address the therapeutic efficacy of B cell depletion using anti-CD20. Mice were treated at either 4–6 weeks of age or beginning at 20–22 weeks of age with IP injections of anti-CD20 every two weeks. We quantitated B cell levels in all mice as well as antimitochondrial antibodies (AMA), serum and hepatic levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and histopathology of liver and colon. In mice whose treatment was initiated at 4–6 weeks of age, anti-CD20 therapy demonstrated a significant lower incidence of liver inflammation associated with reduced numbers of activated hepatic CD8+ T cells. However, colon inflammation was exacerbated. In contrast, in mice treated at 20–22 weeks of age, anti-CD20 therapy had relatively little effect on either liver or colon disease. As expected all treated animals had reduced levels of B cells, absence of AMA, and increased levels in sera of TNFα, IL-6 and CCL2 (MCP-1). These data suggest potential usage of anti-CD20 in early PBC resistant to other modalities, but raise the cautionary note regarding the use of anti-CD20 in IBD.
PMCID: PMC4130556  PMID: 19877182
Autoimmune cholangitis; Primary biliary cirrhosis; B cells
4.  AMA Heterogeneity and the Xenobiotic Etiology of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2013;57(4):1498-1508.
Antimitochondrial antibodies (AMA) directed against the lipoyl domain of the E2 subunit of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDC-E2) are detected in 95% of patients with PBC and are present before onset of clinical disease. The recent demonstration that AMA recognize xenobiotic modified PDC-E2 with higher titers than native PDC-E2, raises the possibility that the earliest events involved in loss of tolerance are related to xenobiotic modification. We hypothesized that reactivity to such xenobiotics would be predominantly IgM and using sera from a large cohort of PBC patients and controls (n=516), we examined in detail sera reactivity against either SAc-conjugated bovine serum albumin (BSA), recombinant PDC-E2 (rPDC-E2) or BSA alone. Further, we also defined the relative specificity to the SAc moiety using inhibition ELISA; SAc conjugate and rPDC-E2 specific affinity purified antibodies were also examined for antigen specificity, isotype and cross-reactivity. Reactivity to SAc conjugates is predominantly IgM; such reactivity reflects a footprint of previous xenobiotic exposure. Indeed, this observation is supported by both direct binding, cross reactivity, and inhibition studies. In both early and late stage PBC, the predominant Ig isotype to SAc is IgM, with titers higher with advanced stage disease. We also note that there was a higher level of IgM reactivity to SAc in early stage versus late stage PBC. Interestingly, this finding is particularly significant in light of the structural similarity between SAc and the reduced form of lipoic acid, a step which is similar to the normal physiological oxidation of lipoic acid. We submit that specific modifications of the disulfide bond within the lipoic-acid-conjugated PDC-E2 moiety, i.e. by an electrophilic agent renders PDC-E2 immunogenic in a genetically susceptible host.
PMCID: PMC3601563  PMID: 23184636
Tolerance; electrophiles; lipoic acid; environment and autoimmunity
5.  Overexpression of microRNA-21 is associated with elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines in dominant-negative TGF-β receptor type II mouse 
Journal of autoimmunity  2013;41:111-119.
Dominant negative TGF-β receptor II (dnTGF-βRII) mice spontaneously develop an autoimmune cholangitis resembling human primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Interestingly, the dominant negative TGF-β receptor is expressed by both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and leads to greatly reduced (but not absent) TGF-β signaling resulting in T cell intrinsic cell mediated autoimmunity. However, the mechanisms of the T cell dysregulation remain unclear. Recently it has been shown that TGF-β signaling is intimately involved with miRNA biogenesis and control. Herein we show that lack of T cell TGF-β signaling leads to down regulation of T cell miRNAs but upregulation of the key inflammatory miRNA 21. Furthermore, the expression of miR-21 from hepatic effector CD8+ T cells is significantly higher than in the same subsets isolated from spleen and mesenteric lymph nodes of the dnTGF-βRII mice. Previous studies indicate that miR-21 increases the synthesis of IFN-γ and IL-17A by T cells and suppresses apoptosis via programmed cell death protein 4 (PDCD4). Data presented herein demonstrate that transfecting w.t. B6 T cell subsets with miR-21 resulted in upregulation of the inflammatory cytokines TNF-α and IFN-γ, thus partly replicating the dnTGF-βRII T cell phenotype. In conclusion, these data suggest miR-21 plays a critical role in the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines in dnTGFβRII mice, which could be a contributing factor for the development of the organ-specific autoimmune cholangitis and colitis in this murine model of human PBC.
PMCID: PMC3622842  PMID: 23395552
Primary biliary cirrhosis; inflammatory bowel disease; autoimmunity; cholangitis; colitis; microRNA; miR-21
6.  Leukotriene B4 activates intracellular calcium and augments human osteoclastogenesis 
Bone erosion in inflammatory arthritis depends on the recruitment and activation of bone resorbing cells, the osteoclasts. Interleukin-23 (IL-23) has been primarily implicated in mediating inflammatory bone loss via the differentiation of Th17 receptor activator of nuclear factor κB ligand (RANKL)–producing cells. In this article, we describe a new role of IL-23 in activating the synthesis and production of leukotriene B4 (LTB4) in innate immune cells.
We utilized whole blood–derived human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), differentiated them towards an osteoclast lineage and then performed immunofluorescence and cytochemical staining to detect the expression of LTB4-associated receptors and enzymes such as phospholipase A2, 5-lipoxygenase and leukotriene A4 hydrolase, as well as the presence of tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) and F-actin rings on fully mature osteoclasts. We used enzyme immunoassays to measure LTB4 levels in culture media derived from IL-23-treated human PBMCs. We used real-time calcium imaging to study the effect of leukotrienes and requirements of different calcium sources and signaling proteins in activating intracellular calcium flux using pharmacological inhibitors to phospholipase C (U73122), membrane calcium channels (2-APB) and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (Wortmannin) and utilized qPCR for gene expression analysis in macrophages and osteoclasts.
Our data show that LTB4 engagement of BLT1 and BLT2 receptors on osteoclast precursors leads to activation of phospholipase C and calcium release–activated channel–mediated intracellular calcium flux, which can activate further LTB4 autocrine production. IL-23-induced synthesis and secretion of LTB4 resulted in the upregulation of osteoclast-related genes NFATC1, MMP9, ACP5, CTSK and ITGB3 and the formation of giant, multinucleated TRAP+ cells capable of F-actin ring formation. These effects were dependent on Ca2+ signaling and were completely inhibited by BLT1/BLT2 and/or PLC and CRAC inhibitors.
In conclusion, IL-23 can initiate osteoclast differentiation independently from the RANK-RANKL pathway by utilizing Ca2+ signaling and the LTB4 signaling cascade.
PMCID: PMC4276054  PMID: 25443625
7.  Deletion of IL-12p35 induces liver fibrosis in dominant negative transforming growth factor β receptor type II mice 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2013;57(2):806-816.
We have previously reported that mice with a dominant negative transforming growth factor β receptor restricted to T cells (dnTGFβRII mice) develop an inflammatory biliary ductular disease that strongly resembles human primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Furthermore, deletion of the gene encoding interleukin (IL)-12p40 resulted in a strain (IL-12p40−/−dnTGFβRII) with dramatically reduced autoimmune cholangitis. To further investigate the role of the IL-12 cytokine family in dnTGFβRII autoimmune biliary disease, we deleted the gene encoding the IL-12p35 subunit from dnTGFβRII mice, resulting in an IL-12p35−/− dnTGFβRII strain which is deficient in two members of the IL-12 family, IL-12 and IL-35. In contrast to IL-12p40−/− mice, the IL-12p35−/− mice developed liver inflammation and bile duct damage with similar severity but delayed onset as the parental dnTGFβRII mice. The p35−/− mice also demonstrated a distinct cytokine profile characterized by a shift from a Th1 to a Th17 response. Strikingly, liver fibrosis was frequently observed in IL-12p35−/− mice. In conclusion, IL-12p35−/− dnTGFβRII mice, histologically and immunologically, reflect key features of PBC, providing a useful generic model to understand the immunopathology of human PBC.
PMCID: PMC3424295  PMID: 22576253
Primary biliary cirrhosis; murine models; autoimmunity; cholangitis
8.  Therapeutic effect of CTLA4-Ig on a murine model of primary biliary cirrhosis 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2013;57(2):708-715.
Collectively, the data in both humans and murine models of human primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) suggest that activated T cells, particularly CD8 T cells, play a critical role in biliary cell destruction. Under physiological conditions, T cell activation involves two critical signals that involve the MHC and a set of co-stimulatory molecules which include a receptor on T cells coined cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4). Germane to the studies reported herein, signaling via CTLA-4 has the potential to modulate co-stimulation and induce inhibitory signals. In this study we have taken advantage of our well-defined murine model of PBC in which mice are immunized with 2-octynoic acid coupled to BSA, leading to the production of high titer anti-mitochondrial autoantibodies and portal cellular infiltrates. To investigate the potential of CTLA-4 Ig as an immunotherapeutic agent, we treated mice both before and after induction of autoimmune cholangitis. Firstly, we demonstrate that CTLA-4 Ig treatment begun one day before 2-OA-BSA immunization, completely inhibits the manifestations of cholangitis, including AMA production, intra-hepatic T cell infiltrates and bile duct damage. However, and more critically, treatment with CTLA-4 Ig initiated after the development of autoimmune cholangitis in previously immunized mice, also resulted in significant therapeutic benefit, including reduced intra-hepatic T cell infiltrates and biliary cell damage, although AMA levels were not altered. These data suggest that an optimized regimen with CTLA-4 Ig has the potential to serve as an investigative therapeutic tool in patients with PBC.
PMCID: PMC3548049  PMID: 22996325
Primary biliary cirrhosis; cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen 4; Abatacept autoimmunity; cholangitis
10.  Mincle and human B cell function 
Journal of autoimmunity  2012;39(4):315-322.
C-type lectin receptors are pattern recognition receptors that are critical for autoimmunity and the immune response. Mincle is a C-type lectin receptor expressed by a variety of antigen presenting cells including macrophages, neutrophils, dendritic cells and B cells; a variety of stimuli including stress are known to induce the expression of Mincle. Mincle is an FcRγ-associated activation receptor that senses damaged cells and upon ligation induces activated macrophages to produce inflammatory cytokines. Recently, while several studies have reported that Mincle plays an important role in macrophage responses to fungal infection its function on B cells remains to be defined. In efforts to elucidate the function of Mincle expressed by B cells, we studied the expression of Mincle on subsets of B cells and analyzed cytokines and synthesized immunoglobulin upon ligation of Mincle. The expression of Mincle on CD27−CD19+ naïve B cells is significantly higher than CD27+CD19+ memory B cells. The stimulation of TLR9 ligand induced Mincle expression on B cells. Furthermore, co-stimulation of TLR9 and Mincle ligand reduced IgG and IgA production from B cells without a significant change in the inflammatory cytokines TNFα, IL-6, IL-8 and IL-10. Our data identifies Mincle as a potentially critical player in human B cell responses.
PMCID: PMC3443704  PMID: 22698596
C-type lectin; Mincle; Toll-like receptor
11.  Liver Immunology 
Comprehensive Physiology  2013;3(2):567-598.
The liver is the largest organ in the body and is generally regarded by non-immunologists as not having lymphoid function. However, such is far from accurate. This review highlights the importance of the liver as a lymphoid organ. Firstly, we discuss experimental data surrounding the role of liver as a lymphoid organ. The liver facilitates a tolerance rather than immunoreactivity, which protects the host from antigenic overload of dietary components and drugs derived from the gut and is also instrumental to fetal immune tolerance. Loss of liver tolerance leads to autoaggressive phenomena which if are not controlled by regulatory lymphoid populations may lead to the induction of autoimmune liver diseases. Liver-related lymphoid subpopulations also act as critical antigen-presenting cells. The study of the immunological properties of liver and delineation of the microenvironment of the intrahepatic milieu in normal and diseased livers provides a platform to understand the hierarchy of a series of detrimental events which lead to immune-mediated destruction of the liver and the rejection of liver allografts. The majority of emphasis within this review will be on the normal mononuclear cell composition of the liver. However, within this context, we will discus select, but not all, immune mediated liver disease and attempt to place these data in the context of human autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC4201126  PMID: 23720323
autoimmune disease; biliary epithelial cell; hepatocytes; immunity; liver; lymphocytes; tolerance
12.  The Immunobiology of Colitis and Cholangitis in IL-23p19 and IL-17A Deleted dnTGFβRII Mice 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2012;56(4):1418-1426.
dnTGFβRII mice, expressing a dominant negative form of TGFβ receptor II under control of the CD4 promoter, develop autoimmune colitis and cholangitis . We previously observed that deficiency in IL-12p40 led to a marked diminution of inflammation in both the colon and the liver. To distinguish whether IL-12p40 mediated protection acted via the IL-12 or IL-23 pathways, we generated an IL-23p19−/− dnTGFβRII strain deficient in IL-23 but not in IL-12; mice were longitudinally followed for changes in the natural history of disease and immune responses. Interestingly, IL-23p19−/− mice demonstrate dramatic improvement in their colitis but no changes in biliary pathology; mice also manifest reduced Th17 cell populations and unchanged IFN-γ levels. We submit that the IL-12/Th1 pathway is essential for biliary disease pathogenesis, while the IL-23/Th17 pathway mediates colitis. To further assess the mechanism of the IL-23 mediated protection from colitis, we generated an IL-17A−/− dnTGFβRII strain deficient in IL-17, a major effector cytokine produced by IL-23-dependent Th17 cells. Deletion of the IL-17A gene did not affect the severity of either cholangitis or colitis, suggesting that the IL-23/Th17 pathway contributes to the colon disease in an IL-17-independent manner. These results affirm that the IL-12/Th1 pathway is critical to biliary pathology in dnTGFβRII mice while the colitis is caused by a direct effect of IL-23.
PMCID: PMC3415593  PMID: 22532156
Primary biliary cirrhosis; murine models; autoimmunity; cholangitis; colitis
13.  Antimitochondrial Antibodies in Acute Liver Failure: Implications for Primary Biliary Cirrhosis 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2007;46(5):1436-1442.
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.
PMCID: PMC3731127  PMID: 17657817
Tolerance; Oxidative injury; Self-reactivity; Epitopes
14.  Differential Modulation by IL-17A of Cholangitis versus Colitis in IL-2Rα Deleted Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(8):e105351.
IFN-γ is a signature Th1 cell associated cytokine critical for the inflammatory response in autoimmunity with both pro-inflammatory and potentially protective functions. IL-17A is the hallmark of T helper 17 (Th17) cell subsets, produced by γδT, CD8+ T, NK and NKT cells. We have taken advantage of our colony of IL-2Rα−/− mice that spontaneously develop both autoimmune cholangitis and inflammatory bowel disease. In this model CD8+ T cells mediate biliary ductular damage, whereas CD4+ T cells mediate induction of colon-specific autoimmunity. Importantly, IL-2Rα−/− mice have high levels of interferon γ (IFN-γ), and interleukin-17A (IL-17A). We produced unique double deletions of mice that were either IL-17A−/−IL-2Rα−/− or IFN-γ−/−IL-2Rα−/− to specifically address the precise role of these two cytokines in the natural history of autoimmune cholangitis and colitis. Of note, deletion of IL-17A in IL-2Rα−/− mice led to more severe liver inflammation, but ameliorated colitis. In contrast, there were no significant changes in the immunopathology of double knock-out IFN-γ−/− IL-2Rα−/− mice, compared to single knock-out IL-2Rα−/− mice with respect to cholangitis or colitis. Furthermore, there was a significant increase in pathogenetic CD8+ T cells in the liver of IL-17A−/−IL-2Rα−/− mice. Our data suggest that while IL-17A plays a protective role in autoimmune cholangitis, it has a pro-inflammatory role in inflammatory bowel disease. These data take on particular significance in the potential use of anti-IL-17A therapy in humans with primary biliary cirrhosis.
PMCID: PMC4136813  PMID: 25133396
15.  Comparative analysis of portal cell infiltrates in AMA positive versus AMA negative PBC 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2012;55(5):1495-1506.
Substantial evidence supports dysregulated B cell immune responses in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), including the presence of serum anti-mitochondrial antibodies (AMAs). However, recent reports from murine models of PBC suggest that B cells may also provide regulatory function and indeed the absence of B cells in such models leads to exacerbation of disease. The vast majority of patients with PBC have readily detectable antimitochondrial antibodies, but a minority (<5%), are AMA negative (AMA−) even with recombinant diagnostic technology. This issue prompted us to examine the nature of B cell infiltrates surrounding the portal areas in AMA positive (AMA+) and AMA− patients since they display indistinguishable clinical features. Of importance was the finding that the degree of bile duct damage around the portal areas was significantly milder in AMA+ PBC than those seen in AMA− PBC patients. The portal areas from AMA− patients had a significant increase of CD5+ cells infiltrating the ductal regions and the levels of B cell infiltrates were worse in the early phase of bile duct damage. The frequency of positive portal areas and the magnitude of CD5+ and CD20+ cellular infiltrates within areas of ductal invasion is associated with the first evidence of damage of biliary duct epithelia, but becomes reduced in the ductopenia stage, with the exception of CD5+ cells which remain sustained and predominate over CD20+ cells. In conclusion, our data suggest a putative role of B cell autoimmunity in regulating the portal destruction characteristic of PBC.
PMCID: PMC3299932  PMID: 22135136
B cells; CD20; CD5; Primary biliary cirrhosis
16.  Deficiency in regulatory T cells results in development of antimitochondrial antibodies and autoimmune cholangitis 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2009;49(2):545-552.
There have been several descriptions of mouse models that manifest select immunological and clinical features of autoimmune cholangitis with similarities to primary biliary cirrhosis in humans. Some of these models require immunization with complete Freund's adjuvant, whereas others suggest that a decreased frequency of T regulatory cells (Tregs) facilitate spontaneous disease. We hypothesized that anti-mitochondrial antibodies (AMA) and development of autoimmune cholangitis would be found in mice genetically deficient in components essential for the development and homeostasis of Foxp3+ Tregs. Therefore, we examined Scurfy (Sf) mice, animals that have a mutation in the gene encoding the Foxp3 transcription factor which results in a complete abolition of Foxp3+ Tregs. Indeed at 3-4 weeks of age, 100% of animals manifest high titer serum AMA of all isotypes. Further, mice have moderate to severe lymphocytic infiltrates surrounding portal areas with evidence of biliary duct damage, and dramatic elevation of cytokines in serum and mRNAs encoding cytokines in liver tissue, including TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-6, IL-12 and IL-23. In conclusion, the lack of functional Foxp3 is a major predisposing feature for loss of tolerance that leads to autoimmune cholangitis. These findings reflect on the importance of regulatory T cells in other murine models as well as in patients with PBC.
PMCID: PMC2635418  PMID: 19065675
Sf mouse; Primary Biliary Cirrhosis; Tregs; Interleukin 12; CD8 T lymphocyte
17.  Novel Model of Antigen-Specific Induction of Bile Duct Injury 
Gastroenterology  2006;131(6):1899-1906.
Background & Aims
Biliary-directed inflammation is an important cause of acute and chronic liver disease. We developed and characterized a transgenic mouse model of immunemediated hepatobiliary injury.
Ovalbumin (OVA)-BIL mice were developed using 3.0 kilobase of the rat apical sodium-dependent bile acid transporter promoter to drive aberrant expression of a membrane form of ovalbumin (OVA) on biliary epithelium. Liver inflammation resulted from adoptive transfer of OVA-specific T cells. Liver immune cells were characterized to determine the mechanism of the response by assessing activation, proliferation, and intracellular cytokine expression.
OVA-BIL transgenic mice were tolerant to OVA, without evidence of liver disease. Adoptive transfer of OVA-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cells into naïve OVA-BIL mice led to biliary-centered necroinflammatory damage in a dose-dependent manner. This inflammation absolutely required CD8+ T cells and was augmented by CD4+ T cells. Adoptively transferred OVA CD8+ cells homed to and proliferated in the liver but not the spleen. These activated, adoptively transferred cytotoxic T lymphocytes produced elevated levels of tumor necrosis factor α and interferon γ.
T-cell recognition of antigen aberrantly expressed on bile duct epithelium induced an acute necroinflammatory response specific to the liver, with activation, proliferation, and cytokine production predominantly by the OVA-specific cytotoxic T cells. Thus, OVA BIL represents an antigen-specific animal model of inflammatory bile duct injury.
PMCID: PMC4113411  PMID: 17087941
18.  Plasma Cells and the Chronic Nonsuppurative Destructive Cholangitis of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2012;55(3):846-855.
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.
PMCID: PMC3272098  PMID: 22031474
antimitochondrial antibodies; primary biliary cirrhosis; plasma cells; coronal arrangement
19.  Primary biliary cirrhosis and Sjogren's syndrome: Autoimmune epithelitis 
Journal of autoimmunity  2011;39(1-2):34-42.
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.
PMCID: PMC3568660  PMID: 22178199
Apoptosis; autoantibodies; epithelium; inflammation
Journal of autoimmunity  2012;39(3):216-221.
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.
PMCID: PMC3558985  PMID: 22727562
Journal of autoimmunity  2007;29(2-3):61-68.
Autophagy is a physiological cellular mechanism that degrades and recycles proteins and other molecules to maintain an adequate amino acid level during nutritional starvation of the cell. Autophagy is involved in cellular homeostasis and differentiation, as well as in tissue remodeling, aging, cancer, and other diseases. Under particular environmental conditions, autophagy can also be a contributor to programmed cell death, or can act as a defense mechanism for the elimination of intracellular bacteria and viruses. According to recent experimental data, autophagy may be implicated in autoimmunity by promotion of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II presentation of cytosolic antigens and control of T lymphocyte homeostasis, and its induction by Th1 cytokines and perhaps by specific serum autoantibodies. We review herein the role of autophagy in immune function and its possible contribution to breakdown of tolerance and development of autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC2063509  PMID: 17693057
Apoptosis; autoimmunity; autophagy
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2011;55(1):153-160.
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.
PMCID: PMC3245335  PMID: 21898485
Epigenetics; autoimmunity; methylation; CD40-CD40L
23.  Etiopathogenesis of primary biliary cirrhosis 
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.
PMCID: PMC2716587  PMID: 18528930
Autoantibodies; Autoreactive T cells; 2-oxoacid dehydrogenase; Biliary epithelial cells; Primary biliary cirrhosis
24.  Fine phenotypic and functional characterization of effector CD8+ T cells in patients with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2011;54(4):1293-1302.
In primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), patients develop a multilineage response to a highly restricted peptide of the E2 component of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDC-E2) involving autoantibody and autoreactive CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses. Recent data from murine models have suggested that liver-infiltrating CD8+ cells play a critical role in biliary destruction in PBC. We hypothesized that chronic antigen stimulation of CD8+ T cells alters effector memory T cell (TEM) frequency and function similar to that seen with chronic viral infections including failure to terminally differentiate and relative resistance to apoptosis. We have rigorously phenotyped CD8+ T cell subpopulations from 132 subjects, including 76 patients with PBC and 56 controls, and report a higher frequency of TEM cells characterized as CD45ROhighCD57+CD8high but expressing the gut homing integrin α4β7 in PBMC of PBC. These CD8high TEM cells have reduced expression of annexin V after TCR stimulation. Consistent with a TEM phenotype, CD45ROhighCD57+CD8high T cells express higher levels of granzyme A, granzyme B, perforin, CCR5 and α4β7, and lower levels of CCR7 and CD28 than other CD8high T cells. Furthermore, interleukin (IL)-5 produced by CD8+CD57+ T lymphocytes upon in vitro TCR stimulation are increased in PBC. Histologically, CD8+CD57+ T cells accumulate around the portal area in PBC. Moreover, CD8+CD57+ T cells respond specifically to the MHC class I epitope of PDC-E2. In conclusion, our data demonstrate that CD45ROhighCD57+CD8high T cells are a subset of terminally differentiated cytotoxic TEM cells which could play a critical role in the progressive destruction of biliary epithelial cells.
PMCID: PMC3184190  PMID: 21735469
Cytotoxic T cells; effector memory cells; cell sorting; homing receptors; annexin V
25.  T cell clonal expansions detected in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis express CX3CR1 
Journal of autoimmunity  2011;37(2):71-78.
The intrahepatic biliary destruction of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) appears secondary to a multi-lineage response that includes autoantibodies, biliary apotopes, and cellular responses. Although there has been considerable effort in defining the role and specificity of anti-mitochondrial autoantibodies, a major challenge has been the characterization of T effector pathways. This difficulty is due in part to the limitation of current technologies for directly isolating and characterizing autoreactive T cells from patients. Herein, we successfully demonstrate a novel technology for characterizing the surface phenotype of T cell oligoclonal expansions directly ex vivo. Using PBC as a prototypic disease we were able to detect clonal T cell expansions in 15/15 patients examined. Although the T cell expansions from different patients expressed different TCR Vβ gene segments, the surface phenotype of the cells was the same. The clonal T cell expansions in PBC patients are CX3CR1+ Fas+ effector-memory T cells, a finding of particular importance given the known up-regulation of fractalkine on injured biliary epithelial cells (BEC). In contrast to the persistent aberrantly expanded T cells observed in the PBC patients, T cell expansions detected in response to a herpes viral infection were very dynamic and resolved over time. This protocol can be used to characterize T cell expansions in other autoimmune diseases.
PMCID: PMC4018194  PMID: 21636249
Autoimmunity; Immunoscope; Primary Biliary Cirrhosis; CX3CR1; T cell repertoire analysis; CCR7

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