Natural killer cells in liver disease

Authors

  • Zhigang Tian,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
    • Zhigang Tian, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230027, China===

      Bin Gao, Laboratory of Liver Diseases, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, 5625 Fishers Lane, Room 2S-33, Bethesda, MD 20892===

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  • Yongyan Chen,

    1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China
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  • Bin Gao

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratory of Liver Diseases, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
    • Zhigang Tian, School of Life Sciences, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230027, China===

      Bin Gao, Laboratory of Liver Diseases, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, 5625 Fishers Lane, Room 2S-33, Bethesda, MD 20892===

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    • fax: 301-480-0257


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.

  • The work described from Dr. Zhigang Tian's lab was supported by the Chinese Natural Science Foundation (91029303, 30911120480, and 31021061), the Ministry of Science and Technology (973-2012CB519004), and the National Science and Technology Major Projects (2012ZX10002006), and the work described from Dr. Bin Gao's lab was supported by the intramural program of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health.

Abstract

Natural killer (NK) cells are enriched in lymphocytes within the liver and have unique phenotypic features and functional properties, including tumor necrosis factor–related apoptosis-inducing ligand–-dependent cytotoxicity and specific cytokine profiles. As a key component of innate immunity in the liver, NK cells perform critical roles in host defense against pathogens and tumors through their natural cytotoxicity and cytokine production, and they also act as regulatory cells by engaging in reciprocal interactions with other types of liver cells through cell-to-cell contact and the production of cytokines. Accumulating evidence from the last decade suggests that NK cells play an important role in controlling viral hepatitis, liver fibrosis, and liver tumorigenesis, but also contribute to the pathogenesis of liver injury and inflammation. The characterization of intrahepatic NK cell functions has not only helped us to better understand the pathogenesis of liver disease, but has also revealed new therapeutic targets for managing this disease. (HEPATOLOGY 2013;57:1654–1662)

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