Dysfunction of T cells is a common feature in chronic persistent viral infections, including hepatitis C virus (HCV), and although hepatic and peripheral T cells have been studied extensively in chronic HCV hepatitis, the role of splenic T cell responses in such patients is poorly defined. This is an important issue, as thrombocytopenia is a complication of HCV-related liver cirrhosis (LC), due to splenic platelet sequestration and bone marrow suppression; splenectomy has been proposed to treat such patients. Herein, we studied peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and splenic lymphoid subpopulations from a total of 22 patients, including 15 with HCV-related LC with marked thrombocytopenia treated with splenectomy, and seven controls. CD4+ T cells from peripheral blood and spleen were isolated and phenotype and function evaluated. Splenic CD4+ T cells in patients with LC expressed molecules associated with inhibitory signalling, including increased frequency of negative markers such as cytotoxic T lymphocyte associated antigen-4 (CTLA-4) and programmed death 1 (PD-1) and decreased production of cytokines. Patients with LC manifest higher levels of splenic CD4+ regulatory T cells and PD-L1- and PD-L2-expressing cells than controls. Blocking of PD-1/PD-1 ligand interaction reconstituted proliferative and cytokine responses of splenic mononuclear cells (SMC) from patients with LC. Splenectomy was followed by an increase in the ratio of interferon (IFN)-γ to interleukin (IL)-10 and a reduction of PD-1-expressing CD4+ T cells in peripheral blood. Our data suggest that peripheral tolerance is promoted by the spleen in LC via the up-regulated expression of PD-1 ligands.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Immunology and Allergy