Abstract. Viral infection may play a role in alcoholic liver disease with histological features of chronic active hepatitis (CAH). Human leucocyte antigen (HLA) hepatocellular display is supposed to allow HLA-restricted T-lymphocyte cytotoxicity in chronic viral hepatitis.
We studied the presence of serum anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibodies, the hepatic HLA display and the composition of the mononuclear cell infiltrate in 16 patients with alcoholic liver disease and histological features of CAH and in 11 patients with alcohol-related degenerative changes. All patients were negative for hepatitis B virus (HBV) markers.
Anti-HCV were tested by microplate ELISA. Class I HLA A, B, class II HLA DR, lymphocytes pan T, T helper/inducer, T suppressor/cytotoxic, B, and K NK cells were stained on liver cryostat sections by monoclonal antibodies and double indirect immunoperoxi-dase.
Anti-HCV were present in all the patients with features of CAH and absent in those with only degenerative changes. In livers with features of CAH the mononuclear cell infiltrate consisted largely of T lymphocytes with marked prevalence of suppressor/cytotoxic cells in periportal and lobular areas. K NK cells were rare. Class I HLA, diffusely displayed on bile duct epithelium and on sinusoidal cells, also appeared on liver cells in the areas of periportal and lobular necrosis, namely on the hepatocytes in close contact with suppressor/cytotoxic T cells. In livers with only degenerative changes class I HLA were diffusely displayed on bile duct epithelium and on sinusoidal cells but absent on the hepatocytes. In all the specimens HLA DR antigens were expressed on sinusoidal and inflammatory cells.
In alcoholic liver disease with features of CAH the presence of anti-HCV and the close contact of T-cytotoxic cells to hepatocytes expressing class I HLA suggest a pathogenetic role of HCV and an HLA-restricted T-cytotoxic mechanism of hepatocellular necrosis.