Cytotoxic activity of spleen-derived T lymphocytes against autologous biliary epithelial cells in autopsy patients with primary biliary cirrhosis


First Department of Internal Medicine, Kochi Medical School, Nankoku, Kochi 783, Japan


ABSTRACT— Autoimmunity against biliary epithelial cells is considered to be involved in the pathogenesis of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). However, cytotoxic activity of T lymphocytes against biliary epithelial cells has not previously been examined. This study has demonstrated that spleen-derived T lymphocytes were cytotoxic for autologous biliary epithelial cells in all of five patients with PBC, even though it was only detectable at high effector to target ratios. Such cytotoxicity was not found in non-PBC patients. CD8-positive T lymphocytes were shown to be responsible for the cytotoxicity by negative selection, and its inhibition was dependent on the ratio of cold to hot target cells. These observations may support a current hypothesis that the pathogenesis of PBC is partly due to T cell autoimmunity directed against the bile duct epithelium.