SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

The aim of this study was to quantitate T-cell populations infiltrating portal tracts, bile ducts and hepatic lobules in 82 biopsy specimens from 25 patients after orthotopic liver transplantation. Biopsy specimens taken immediately after revascularization of the graft were used as controls. Patients studied include 18 with initial rejection episodes, 11 with unresolved rejection, five with vanishing bile duct syndrome and eight patients with other forms of liver injury. Quantitation was done in a blinded fashion for the first 20 biopsy specimens. A double immunolabeling technique was used to simultaneously immunolabel bile duct structures (with anti-major histocompatibility complex class II or antikeratins) and lymphoid populations (with anti-CD2, anti-CD4 or anti-CD8). This facilitated the accurate quantitation of intraepithelial lymphocytes within bile ducts. This technique also enabled simultaneous detection of CD4 and CD8 antigens on lymphocytes in portal tracts. The predominant lymphocyte subtype within biliary epithelium during acute and chronic rejection was of the CD2+/CD8+ phenotype. CD8+/CD4+ ratio in bile ducts was approximately 5:1 in acute, unresolved and chronic rejection. In vanishing bile duct syndrome, double immunolabeling enabled the detection of destroyed interlobular bile duct remnants that were not apparent on routine hematoxylin and eosin staining. Attached to some of these structures were CD8+ lymphocytes. Lobular CD8+ cells were not prominent in acute rejection but increased significantly in biopsy specimens from patients with unresolved and chronic rejection. In chronic rejection, a selective increase was seen in these CD8+ cells in centrizonal regions. In contrast, portal tract T-cell numbers decreased in nonresolving and chronic rejection biopsy specimens compared with acute rejection specimens. CD8+ and CD4+ T cells were present in approximately equal numbers in such infiltrates. It is concluded that in the evolution from acute to chronic rejection a selective accumulation of CD8+/CD2+ cells occurs in the biliary epithelium and hepatic lobules. The role of these cells in the actual pathogenetic process of hepatic allograft rejection remains to be established. (HEPATOLOGY 1990;12:1305–1313).