Mucosal addressin cell adhesion molecule (MAdCAM-1) plays a pivotal role in T-lymphocyte homing to the gut. Given the strong association between the autoimmune liver diseases primary sclerosing cholangitis and autoimmune hepatitis and inflammatory bowel disease, we investigated the role of MAdCAM-1 in recruiting mucosal lymphocytes to the liver. MAdCAM-1 was strongly expressed on inflamed portal vein/sinusoidal endothelium in autoimmune mediated liver disease. In modified Stamper-Woodruff assays, MAdCAM-1 on hepatic vessels supported adhesion of α4β7+ lymphocytes (i.e., gut-derived T cells) from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and primary sclerosing cholangitis. This adhesion was inhibited by pretreatment with blocking antibodies to MAdCAM-1, α4β7, or the integrin α4 chain indicating that MAdCAM-1 in inflamed liver is functionally active. Circulating lymphocytes from patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis showed rolling adhesion on MAdCAM-1 transfectants in a flow-based adhesion assay that could be blocked by anti-MAdCAM-1 or anti-α4β7 mAbs. These findings indicate that, under certain circumstances, vessels in the human liver support adhesion of α4β7+ mucosal lymphocytes via binding to aberrantly expressed MAdCAM-1 on liver endothelium. This provides a mechanism to explain the hepatic recruitment of mucosal lymphocytes in inflammatory liver disease complicating inflammatory bowel disease.
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