• Hepatocytes;
  • Deletion;
  • Peripheral tolerance;
  • Transgenic mice;
  • Liver


The response of T cells specific for liver antigens was examined in transgenic mice expressing the allogeneic major histocompatibility complex class I molecule H-2Kb (Kb) under the control of the sheep metallothionein promoter (Met-Kb mice). To follow the fate of Kb-specific T cells, and to prevent any aberrant thymic expression of the Kb transgene, the mice were thymectomized, lethally irradiated, protected with bone marrow cells from transgenic mice expressing in their T cells a Kb-specific T cell receptor identifiable by a clonotypic antibody, and given syngeneic non-transgenic thymus grafts. Although Kb-specific CD8+ T cells were produced in the thymus grafts of these manipulated Met-Kb mice, only small numbers of such cells could be detected in the spleen and lymph nodes. The livers, however, showed signs of damage and were heavily infiltrated by actively dividing CD8+ T cells. We provide strong evidence that the hepatocytes, not generally regarded as antigen-presenting cells, activated the Kb-specific CD8+ T cells and that these disappeared after a vigorous autoimmune response that resulted in deletion.