SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), like many autoimmune diseases, is most prevalent in young women. The immunological basis of this age and sex susceptibility bias was investigated in a murine model of AIH. Xenoimmunization of 7-week-old female C57BL/6 mice resulted in more severe AIH with higher levels of liver inflammation, serum alanine aminotransferase, specific T-cell cytotoxicity, and autoantibody than younger and older females. Vaccinated males developed minimal liver inflammation and higher percentages of CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T cell in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, spleen, and liver than females. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) were virtually absent in liver-lymphocytes infiltrates of females. Castration of C57BL/6 mice, with or without 17β-estradiol supplementation, did not modify susceptibility in males, nor Treg numbers, suggesting minimal contribution of testosterone and estradiol to autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) susceptibility. Xenoimmunized Aire(+/0) mouse displayed similar AIH susceptibility, sex bias, and Tregs numbers as C57BL/6 mice, suggesting that susceptibility in females is not the result of less stringent thymic central tolerance. Autoreactive B cell response against formiminotransferase-cyclodeaminase correlated with disease activity, possibly linking B-cell autoreactivity and AIH pathogenesis. Conclusion: Peripheral tolerance and development of regulatory T cells after self-mimicking antigen exposure, and not sexual hormone nor central tolerance, are the main factors for susceptibility to AIH in females. HEPATOLOGY 2010