• cell transplantation;
  • hepatocyte transplantation;
  • humanized mice;
  • natural killer cell;
  • xenotransplantation


The severe combined immunodeficiency/albumin linked-urokinase type plasminogen activator (SCID/Alb-uPA) human liver chimeric mouse model has added a new dimension to studies of liver based human diseases and has important potential for study of human hepatic drug metabolism. However, it remains unclear if natural killer (NK) cell in SCID/Alb-uPA mice has an important negative impact on engraftment and expansion of human hepatocytes after transplantation. Here, we explore the role of mouse NK cells in the rejection of transplanted human hepatocytes in SCID/Alb-uPA mice. We assessed NK cell activity in vivo, using 125I-iodo-2′-deoxyuridine incorporation assay. Low serum human alpha-1 antitrypsin (hAAT, <10 μg/ml) recipients, representing graft failure, showed resistance to engraftment of MHC class I knockout marrow (indicating high NK cell activity), while NK cell-depleted low hAAT recipients and high hAAT (>100 μg/ml) recipients accepted MHC class I knockout marrow, indicating a correlation between low NK cell activity, in vivo, and high level human hepatocyte engraftment. We also showed that higher level engraftment of human hepatocytes was achieved in both NK cell-depleted SCID/Alb-uPA mice and Rag2−/−γc−/−/Alb-uPA (T,B and NK cell deficient) mice compared with untreated SCID/Alb-uPA mice. These results support a critical role for mouse NK cells in the rejection of human hepatocytes xenotransplanted to immunodeficient mice.