Autoantibodies to the human hepatic asialoglycoprotein receptor have been found in nearly 50% of the sera of patients with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis and in 15% of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. In this study we demonstrate that the human hepatic asialoglycoprotein receptor is also a target antigen for T cell—mediated immune responses. Peripheral blood lymphocytes of 37% (7 of 19) of patients with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis and 33% (2 of 6) of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis showed a proliferative response to highly purified human hepatic asialoglycoprotein receptor, whereas no proliferation was found with peripheral blood lymphocytes of patients with chronic viral hepatitis (0 of 13) and healthy blood donors (0 of 4). Moreover, we isolated T-cell clones from liver biopsy samples of two patients with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis and two patients with peripheral blood lymphocytes. Between 2.8% and 14.3% of these clones showed a specific proliferative response to purified human hepatic asialoglycoprotein receptor. The response was restricted to autologous antigen-presenting cells and could be blocked by monoclonal antibodies against human leukocyte antigen—DR molecules. The response of T cells to the human hepatic asialoglycoprotein receptor did not require the lectinlike activity of the asialoglycoprotein receptor. Thus the human hepatic asialoglycoprotein receptor could be identified as a major target antigen of humoral and cellular immune reactions in autoimmune-mediated liver diseases. (HEPATOLOGY 1990;12:1314–1320).
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