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Abstract

The innate immunopathogenesis responsible for the susceptibility to hepatocyte injury in chronic hepatitis B surface antigen carriers is not well defined. In this study, hepatitis B virus (HBV) transgenic mice (named HBs-Tg) were oversensitive to liver injury after immunologic [polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid or concanavalin A (ConA)] or chemical (CCl4) triggering. It was then found that the nonhepatotoxic low dose of ConA for wild-type mice induced severe liver injury in HBs-Tg mice, which was dependent on the accumulated intraheptic natural killer (NK) cells. Expressions of NKG2D ligands (Rae-1 and Mult-1) in hepatocytes were markedly enhanced upon ConA stimulation in HBs-Tg mice, which greatly activated hepatic NK cells via NKG2D/Rae-1 or Mult-1 recognition. Interestingly, the presence of NK T cells was necessary for NK cell activation and worked as positive helper cell possibly by producing interferon-γ and interleukin-4 in this process. Conclusion: Our findings for the first time suggested the critical role of NKG2D recognition of hepatocytes by NK cells in oversensitive liver injury during chronic HBV infection. (HEPATOLOGY 2007.)