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Abstract

It has been recently identified that hepatocytes can act as cytotoxic effectors and can kill contacted cells by way of CD95 ligand–CD95 and perforin-dependent pathways. However, it remained unknown whether hepatocyte-mediated cell killing is indiscriminant or is directed toward targets with particular cell surface characteristics, as well as whether hepatocytes have the capacity to directly eliminate contacted lymphocytes. In this study, we found that desialylation of surface glycoproteins significantly augments cell susceptibility to hepatocyte-mediated killing. Using asialofetuin as a competitive ligand, and by silencing gene transcription with specific small interfering RNA, we found that the asialoglycoprotein receptor (ASGPR) is involved in hepatocyte recognition of cells predestined for killing, including activated autologous T lymphocytes. Conclusion: Hepatocytes are constitutively equipped in the molecular machinery capable of eliminating cells brought into contact with their surface in a manner that is reliant, at least in part, upon the recognition of terminally desialylated glycoproteins by hepatocyte ASGPR. The study adds a new dimension to the physiological role of hepatic ASGPR and provides further evidence that hepatocytes can actively contribute to intrahepatic immune regulation and moderation of the local inflammatory response. (HEPATOLOGY 2011;)