Hepatology. 2015 Jul .

Liver inflammation abrogates immunological tolerance induced by Kupffer cells.

Heymann F, Peusquens J, Ludwig-Portugall I, Kohlhepp M, Ergen C, Niemietz P, Martin C, van Rooijen N, Ochando JC, Randolph GJ, Luedde T, Ginhoux F, Kurts C, Trautwein C, Tacke F

The liver is essential for inducing immunological tolerance toward harmless antigens to maintain immune system homeostasis. However, the precise cellular mechanisms of tolerance induction against particle-bound antigens, the role of the local hepatic microenvironment, and implications for therapeutic targets in immune-mediated diseases are currently unclear. In order to elucidate cellular mechanisms of tolerance induction in healthy and injured liver, we developed a novel in vivo system combining the systemic delivery of low-dose peptide antigens coupled to inert particles, immunological readouts, and sophisticated intravital multiphoton microscopy-based imaging of liver in mice. We show that liver resident macrophages, Kupffer cells (KCs), but not hepatic monocyte-derived macrophages or dendritic cells (DCs), are the central cellular scavenger for circulating particle-associated antigens in homeostasis. KC-associated antigen presentation induces CD4 T-cell arrest, expansion of naturally occurring Foxp3(+) CD25(+) interleukin-10-producing antigen-specific regulatory T cells (Tregs) and tolerogenic immunity. Particle-associated tolerance induction in the liver protected mice from kidney inflammation in T-cell-mediated glomerulonephritis, indicating therapeutic potential of targeting KC for immune-mediated extrahepatic disorders. Liver inflammation in two independent experimental models of chronic liver injury and fibrosis abrogated tolerance induction and led to an immunogenic reprogramming of antigen-specific CD4 T cells. In injured liver, infiltrating monocyte-derived macrophages largely augment the hepatic phagocyte compartment, resulting in antigen redistribution between myeloid cell populations and, simultaneously, KCs lose signature markers of their tolerogenic phenotype.