Hypercytolytic activity of hepatic natural killer cells correlates with liver injury in chronic hepatitis B patients.
ABSTRACT: UNLABELLED:Natural killer (NK) cells are abundant in the liver and serve as a major innate immune component against microbial infection. Although NK cells have been implicated in inducing hepatocellular damage in patients with chronic hepatitis virus infections, the roles that hepatic NK cells play in chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections remain obscure. In this study, we comprehensively characterized intrahepatic and peripheral NK cells and investigated their impact on liver pathology in a cohort of HBV-infected individuals; this cohort included 51 immune-activated (IA) patients, 27 immune-tolerant (IT) carriers, and 26 healthy subjects. We found that NK cells expressing NK receptors (activation receptors) preferentially accumulated in the livers of IA patients, in which they were activated and skewed toward cytolytic activity but without a concomitant increase in interferon-? production, in comparison with those of IT carriers and healthy subjects. Further analysis showed that the livers of IA patients, in comparison with those of IT and healthy subjects, expressed higher levels of interleukin-12 (IL-12), IL-15, and IL-18 in situ and lower levels of IL-10, which in vitro can induce the activation and degranulation of NK cells from healthy individuals. Finally, hepatic NK cells displayed more cytolytic activity than peripheral NK cells, and this was found to be positively correlated with the liver histological activity index and serum alanine aminotransferase levels in these IA patients. CONCLUSION:In IA patients, hepatic NK cells are activated and preferentially skew toward cytolytic activity, which depends on an imbalanced cytokine milieu and correlates with liver injury during chronic HBV infection.
Project description:Previous work conducted by our group has shown that the accumulation of hepatic natural killer (NK) cells and the up-regulation of natural cytotoxicity receptors (NKP30 and NKP46) on NK cells from patients with hepatitis B virus-related acute-on-chronic liver failure (HBV-ACLF) were correlated with disease progression in HBV-ACLF. The natural cytotoxicity receptors expressed on NK cells are believed to be probable candidates involved in the NK cell-mediated hepatocyte damage in HBV-ACLF. However, the underlying mechanisms remain to be elucidated. In the present study, we aimed to discover the role of NKP30-B7-H6 interaction in NK cells-mediated hepatocyte damage in HBV-ACLF.Hepatic expressions of B7-H6 and interleukin-32 (IL-32) were examined by immunochemistry staining in samples from patients with HBV-ACLF or mild chronic hepatitis B (CHB). The cytotoxicity of NK-92 cell against target cells (Huh-7 and LO2) was evaluated by CCK8 assay. Expression of IL-32 in liver NK cell, T cells and NK-92 cell line was detected by the flow cytometric analysis. The effect of IL-32 on the apoptosis of Huh7 cells was evaluated using Annexin V/PI staining analysis.An enhancement of hepatic B7-H6 and IL-32 expression was associated with the severity of liver injury in HBV-ACLF. And there was a positive association between hepatic B7-H6 and IL-32 expression. Expressions of IL-32 in liver NK cells and T cells were increased in HBV-ACLF patients. In vitro NK-92 cells are highly capable of killing the high B7-H6 expressing Huh7 cells and B7-H6-tansfected hepatocyte line LO2 cells dependent on NKP30 and B7-H6 interaction. Furthermore, NK-92 cells exhibited elevated IL-32 expression when stimulated with anti-NKP30 antibodies or when co-cultured with Huh7 cells. IL-32 can induce the apoptosis of Huh7 cells in a dose-dependent manner.Our results suggest that NKP30-B7-H6 interaction can aggravate hepatocyte damage, probably through up-regulation of IL-32 expression in HBV-ACLF.
Project description:Natural killer (NK) cells play an important role in hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection control, and are regulated by a complex network of activating and inhibitory receptors. However, NK cell activity in HBV patients remains poorly understood. The objective of this study was to investigate the phenotypic and functional characteristics of circulating NK cells in patients during different chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection stages. We investigated NK cell phenotypes, receptor expression and function in 86 CHB patients and 20 healthy controls. NK cells were purified and NK cell subsets were characterized by flow cytometry. Cytotoxic activity (CD107a) and interferon-gamma (IFN-?) secretion were examined, and Natural Killer p46 (NKP46) blockade and spontaneous NK cell cytolytic activity against K562, HepG2 and HepG2.215 cell lines was studied. Activating NKp46 receptor expression was higher in inactive HBsAg carriers when compared with other groups (p = 0.008). NKp46 expression negatively correlated with HBV DNA (R = -0.253, p = 0.049) and ALT (R = -0.256, p = 0.045) levels. CD107a was higher in immune-activated groups when compared with immune-tolerant groups (p = 0.039). CD107a expression was related to viral load (p = 0.02) and HBeAg status (p = 0.024). In vitro NKp46 blockade reduced NK cell cytolytic activity against HepG2 and HepG2.215 cell lines (p = 0.02; p = 0.039). Furthermore, NK cells from high viral load CHB patients displayed significantly lower specific cytolytic activity against anti-NKp46-loaded K562 targets (p = 0.0321). No significant differences were observed in IFN-? secretion (p > 0.05). In conclusion, NKp46 expression regulates NK cell cytolytic function. NKp46 may moderate NK cell activity during HBV replication suppression and HBV-associated liver damage and may be critical for NK cell activity during CHB infection.
Project description:The human liver is enriched in NK cells which are potent effectors of the innate immune system. We have determined that liver NK cells freshly isolated from surgical specimens from patients with hepatic malignancy have less cytolytic activity than autologous blood NK cells. This difference was due to a higher proportion of CD16(-) NK cells in the liver and reduced cytotoxicity by CD16(+) liver NK cells compared with their blood counterparts. CD16(+) liver NK cells had similar expression of activating NK receptors and had similar intracellular granzyme B and perforin content compared with CD16(+) blood NK cells. CD16(+) liver NK cells contained a reduced fraction of cells with inhibitory killer Ig-like receptors specific for self-MHC class I (self-killer Ig-related receptor (KIR)) and an increased fraction of self-KIR(neg)NKG2A(pos) and self-KIR(neg)NKG2A(neg) cells. Using single-cell analysis of intracellular IFN-gamma production and cytotoxicity assays, we determined that CD16(+) liver NK cells expressing self-KIR were more responsive to target cells than those cells that did not express self-KIR molecules. CD16(+) liver NK cells gained cytolytic function when stimulated with IL-2 or cultured with LPS or poly(I:C)-activated autologous liver Kupffer cells. Thus, the human liver contains NK cell subsets which have reduced effector function, but under appropriate inflammatory conditions become potent killers.
Project description:NK cells are enriched in the liver, constituting around a third of intrahepatic lymphocytes. We have previously demonstrated that they upregulate the death ligand TRAIL in patients with chronic hepatitis B virus infection (CHB), allowing them to kill hepatocytes bearing TRAIL receptors. In this study we investigated whether, in addition to their pathogenic role, NK cells have antiviral potential in CHB. We characterised NK cell subsets and effector function in 64 patients with CHB compared to 31 healthy controls. We found that, in contrast to their upregulated TRAIL expression and maintenance of cytolytic function, NK cells had a markedly impaired capacity to produce IFN-? in CHB. This functional dichotomy of NK cells could be recapitulated in vitro by exposure to the immunosuppressive cytokine IL-10, which was induced in patients with active CHB. IL-10 selectively suppressed NK cell IFN-? production without altering cytotoxicity or death ligand expression. Potent antiviral therapy reduced TRAIL-expressing CD56(bright) NK cells, consistent with the reduction in liver inflammation it induced; however, it was not able to normalise IL-10 levels or the capacity of NK cells to produce the antiviral cytokine IFN-?. Blockade of IL-10 +/- TGF-? restored the capacity of NK cells from both the periphery and liver of patients with CHB to produce IFN-?, thereby enhancing their non-cytolytic antiviral capacity. In conclusion, NK cells may be driven to a state of partial functional tolerance by the immunosuppressive cytokine environment in CHB. Their defective capacity to produce the antiviral cytokine IFN-? persists in patients on antiviral therapy but can be corrected in vitro by IL-10+/- TGF-? blockade.
Project description:UNLABELLED:It is well established that interleukin (IL)-22 has hepatoprotective and antifibrotic functions in acute liver injury models; however, its function in patients with liver fibrosis and liver cirrhosis (LC) remains obscure. In the current study, we demonstrated that expression of numerous IL-22 pathway-associated genes was significantly up-regulated in hepatitis B virus (HBV)-infected liver tissues, compared to normal controls, through microarray analysis. In agreement with these findings, liver-infiltrating IL-22(+) cells were largely increased in HBV-infected patients with LC, compared to those without LC or healthy subjects, and were positively associated with liver fibrosis staging scores. Immunohistochemistry and flow cytometric analyses revealed that IL-22 was produced by multiple intrahepatic immune cells and, preferentially, by T-helper (Th) 17 cells in LC patients. In an HBV transgenic (Tg) mouse model of T-cell-mediated chronic liver inflammation and fibrosis, blockade of IL-22 attenuated hepatic expression of chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 10 and chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 20 (CCL20) and subsequently reduced Th17 recruitment and liver inflammation and fibrosis progression. In vitro treatment with IL-22 stimulated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) to secrete several chemokines and subsequently promoted Th17 cell chemotaxis. Blocking C-X-C chemokine receptor type 3 or CCL20 reduced Th17 cell chemotaxis by IL-22-treated HSCs. CONCLUSIONS:IL-22 plays a pathological role in exacerbating chronic liver inflammation and fibrosis by recruiting hepatic Th17 cells in HBV-infected patients and HBV Tg mice.
Project description:Evidence suggests that exosomes can transfer genetic material between cells. However, their roles in hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection remain unclear. Here, we report that exosomes present in the sera of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients contained both HBV nucleic acids and HBV proteins, and transferred HBV to hepatocytes in an active manner. Notably, HBV nucleic acids were detected in natural killer (NK) cells from both CHB patients and healthy donors after exposure to HBV-positive exosomes. Through real-time fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry, 1,1'-dioctadecyl-3,3,3',3',-tetramethylindodicarbocyanine, 4-chlorobenzenesulfnate salt (DiD)-labeled exosomes were observed to interact with NK cells and to be taken up by NK cells, which was enhanced by transforming growth factor-? treatment. Furthermore, HBV-positive exosomes impaired NK-cell functions, including interferon (IFN)-? production, cytolytic activity, NK-cell proliferation and survival, as well as the responsiveness of the cells to poly (I:C) stimulation. HBV infection suppressed the expression of pattern-recognition receptors, especially retinoic acid inducible gene I (RIG-I), on NK cells, resulting in the dampening of the nuclear factor ?B(NF-?B) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways. Our results highlight a previously unappreciated role of exosomes in HBV transmission and NK-cell dysfunction during CHB infection.
Project description:Viral and/or host factors that are directly responsible for the acute versus chronic outcome of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection have not been identified yet. Information on immune response during the early stages of HBV infection in humans is mainly derived from blood samples of patients with acute hepatitis B (AHB), which are usually obtained after the onset of clinical symptoms. Features of intrahepatic immune response in these patients are less studied due to the difficulty of obtaining multiple liver biopsies. Woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) infection in woodchucks is a model for HBV infection in humans. In the present study, five adult woodchucks were experimentally infected with WHV and then followed for 18 weeks. Blood and liver tissues were frequently collected for assaying markers of WHV replication and innate and adaptive immune responses. Liver tissues were further analyzed for pathological changes and stained for important immune cell subsets and cytokines. The increase and subsequent decline of viral replication markers in serum and liver, the elicitation of antibodies against viral proteins, and the induction of virus-specific T-cell responses indicated eventual resolution of acute WHV infection in all animals. Intrahepatic innate immune makers stayed unchanged immediately after the infection, but increased markedly during resolution, as determined by changes in transcript levels. The presence of interferon-gamma and expression of natural killer (NK) cell markers suggested that a non-cytolytic response mechanism is involved in the initial viral control in liver. This was followed by the expression of T-cell markers and cytolytic effector molecules, indicating the induction of a cytolytic response mechanism. Parallel increases in regulatory T-cell markers suggested that this cell subset participates in the overall immune cell infiltration in liver and/or has a role in regulating AHB induced by the cytolytic response mechanism. Since the transcript levels of immune cell markers in blood, when detectable, were lower than in liver, and the kinetics, except for NK-cells and interferon-gamma, did not correlate well with their intrahepatic expression, this further indicated enrichment of immune cells within liver. Conclusion: The coordinated interplay of innate and adaptive immunity mediates viral clearance in the woodchuck animal model of HBV infection. The initial presence of NK-cell associated interferon-gamma response points to an important role of this cytokine in HBV resolution.
Project description:Natural killer (NK) cells can induce liver fibrosis remission by killing hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) and producing interferon (IFN)-? in a mouse model; however, their anti-fibrotic immune-characteristics and regulatory mechanisms by HSCs remain to be determined, especially in livers from HBV-infected liver cirrhosis (LC) patients. We analyzed frequency, phenotype and anti-fibrotic function of hepatic and peripheral NK subsets in 43 HBV-LC patients. We found that hepatic NK subsets from LC patients displayed a decreased frequency, activation status and anti-fibrotic activity compared with those from chronic hepatitis B patients, which were mainly mediated by increased intrahepatic tumour-growth factor (TGF)-? because blockade of TGF-? significantly reversed NK anti-fibrotic function in vitro. In vivo, hepatic NK cells were enriched in proximity to the ?-smooth muscle actin (?-SMA+) area within mild fibrosis regions; while in severe fibrotic areas, they were either directly attached to or separated from the ?-SMA+ region. NK cells from LC patients could enter HSCs to form emperipolesis (a cell-in-cell structure) and become apoptotic; anti-TGF-? treatment ameliorated this emperipolesis. This finding suggested a novel mechanism by which activated HSCs impair NK cells' anti-fibrosis capacity through a TGF-?-dependent emperipolesis in LC patients, providing an anti-fibrotic rational by enhancing NK cell activity.
Project description:Although persistent hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is associated with natural killer (NK) cell dysfunction, it remains obscure whether HBV viral antigens are responsible for NK cell dysfunction in patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection. In this study, we found that the percentage of NK cells expressing the inhibitory receptor, NKG2A, was increased in CHB patients, and NKG2A blockade restored NK cell function. Furthermore, in CHB patients, the frequency of NK cells expressing NKG2A positively correlated with the number of regulatory T cells (Tregs) and production of interleukin-10 (IL-10) in these Tregs. Moreover, exposure of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) isolated from healthy controls to sera from CHB patients resulted in increased proportion of NKG2A+ NK cells; IL-10 blockade reduced the frequency of NKG2A+ NK cells while increasing the percentage of IFN-?+ NK cells. In addition, stimulation of NK cells and Tregs from healthy controls with CHB sera together with anti-IL-10 antibody increased IFN-? production in the culture supernatant. The frequencies of NKG2A+ NK cells and IL-10+ Tregs, along with serum levels of alanine transferase and HBV DNA, were significantly increased in CHB patients positive for the Hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg, a marker of viral replication) when compared to HBeAg-negative CHB patients. Importantly, exposure of PBMCs from healthy controls to HBeAg resulted in increased IL-10 production but reduced levels of TNF and IFN-?, and IL-10 blockade rescued the generation of TNF and IFN-? in this assay. The reduced production of TNF and IFN-? was also observed in NK cells and Tregs from healthy controls that were stimulated with HBeAg, while IL-10 blockade increased the secretion of these two cytokines. We conclude that HBeAg induces IL-10 production in Tregs, thereby leading to increased expression of NKG2A on NK cells, which contributes to NK cell dysfunction during CHB infection. These data suggest that HBeAg is associated with NK cell dysfunction in CHB.
Project description:Siglec-9 is an MHC-independent inhibitory receptor selectively expressed on CD56dim NK cells. Its role in infection diseases has not been investigated yet. Here, we studied the potential regulatory roles of NK Siglec-9 in the pathogenesis of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection. Flow cytometry evaluated the expression of Siglec-9 and other receptors on peripheral NK cells. Immunofluorescence staining was used to detect Siglec-9 ligands on liver biopsy tissues and cultured hepatocyte cell lines. Siglec-9 blocking assay was carried out and cytokine synthesis and CD107a degranulation was detected by flow cytometry. Compared to healthy donors, CHB patients had decreased Siglec-9+ NK cells, which reversely correlated with serum hepatitis B e antigen and HBV DNA titer. Siglec-9 expression on NK cells from patients achieving sustained virological response recovered to the level of normal donors. Neutralization of Siglec-9 restored cytokine synthesis and degranulation of NK cells from CHB patients. Immunofluorescence staining showed increased expression of Siglec-9 ligands in liver biopsy tissues from CHB patients and in hepatocyte cell lines infected with HBV or stimulated with inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 or TGF-?). These findings identify Siglec-9 as a negative regulator for NK cells contributing to HBV persistence and the intervention of Siglec-9 signaling might be of potentially translational significance.