• liver-infiltrating lymphocytes;
  • CD56+ T lymphocyte ;
  • HCV-related chronic hepatitis;
  • NKT lymphocyte

Abstract:Aim: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of post-transfusional and sporadic hepatitis, and leads to chronic liver disease. It has been suggested that virus-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes are responsible for liver injuries that occur in HCV-infected patients. However, the detailed characteristics of these lymphocytes have not yet been defined. We have previously reported that CD56+ T lymphocytes, as intermediates between natural killer cell and T lymphocytes, predominantly infiltrated the liver and were increased in patients with chronic hepatitis related to HCV (CH-C). Material and Methods: We obtained peripheral blood and liver tissues from 32 patients diagnosed as having CH-C, and 10 other liver disease patients (5 chronic hepatitis related to HBV, 5 alcoholics), and analyzed peripheral blood and liver-infiltrating lymphocytes using flow cytometric and immunohistochemical techniques. Results: The CD56+ T lymphocyte ratio in the liver of patients with a high histology activity index (HAI) score for chronic hepatitis was higher than that of patients with a low HAI score and patients with other liver diseases. In addition, T lymphocytes from patients with chronic hepatitis with a high HAI score carried mostly γδ-TCR. There was a correlation between the ratio of CH-C and serum alanine aminotransferase, category I (periportal inflammation and necrosis), and IV (fibrosis) of the HAI scoring system. The ratio was highest in zone 1 of the hepatic lobules. Conclusion: The correlation between CD56+ T lymphocyte ratios and hepatocellular damage was examined. These findings suggest strongly that liver-infiltrating CD56+ T lymphocytes play an important pathologic role in hepatocellular injury in CH-C.