Periductal interleukin-17 production in association with biliary innate immunity contributes to the pathogenesis of cholangiopathy in primary biliary cirrhosis


Y. Nakanuma, Department of Human Pathology, Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medicine, Kanazawa 920-8640, Japan. E-mail:


An innate immune response to bacterial components is speculated to be involved in the pathogenesis of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Recently, CD4-positive T helper type 17 (Th17) cells, characterized by the secretion of interleukin (IL)-17, have been implicated in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases. Human Th17 cells are generated from Th0 cells by IL-6 and IL-1β and maintained by IL-23. In this study, the role of IL-17 in PBC and its association with biliary innate immunity were examined. Using cultured human biliary epithelial cells (BECs), the expression of Th17-related cytokines and chemokines and changes therein on treatment with pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) and IL-17 were examined. Immunohistochemistry for IL-17 and Th17-related cytokines was performed using tissue samples of human liver. Consequently, the expression of IL-6, IL-1β, IL-23p19 and IL-23/IL-12p40 mRNAs, and their up-regulation by PAMPs, were found in BECs. Moreover, BECs possessed IL-17-receptors and stimulation with IL-17 induced production of IL-6, IL-1β, IL-23p19 and chemokines. Several IL-17-positive cells had infiltrated damaged bile ducts and the expression of IL-6 and IL-1β was enhanced in the bile ducts of PBC patients. In conclusion, IL-17-positive cells are associated with the chronic inflammation of bile ducts in PBC which is associated causally with the biliary innate immune responses to PAMPs.