Progressive development of a Th1-type hepatic cytokine profile in rats with experimental cholangitis



Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) are presumed autoimmune chronic cholestatic liver diseases characterized by cholangitis and progressive loss of bile ducts. Cytokines have been postulated to be involved in the progression of these diseases, but their role is poorly defined. Our objectives were to characterize a rat model of cholangitis and to determine Type 1/Type 2 (Th1/Th2) cytokine profile shifts in this model. Cholangitis was induced in Sprague-Dawley rats (200 to 225 g) by low-dose oral administration of the biliary toxin α-naphthylisothiocyanate (ANIT) (1 g/kg powdered rat chow ad libitum) for 4, 7, and 14 days. Cholestasis was observed in ANIT-treated animals. Liver histology of ANIT-treated rats showed hepatic inflammation centered on damaged bile ducts, significant bile duct proliferation, and progressive fibrosis. Immunohistochemistry showed enhanced staining of hepatic major histocompatibility complex (MHC) II, CD4, and CD8 in portal areas of ANIT-treated animals. In addition, the hepatic cytokine profile became increasingly Th1 in nature with progressive ANIT treatment. In summary, experimental cholangitis biochemically and histologically mimics human chronic cholangitis and furthermore, is associated with a progressive shift to a more Th1-dominant hepatic cytokine profile. Therefore, this model may be useful for examining the role of cytokines in the progression of chronic cholangitic diseases.