Liver type I regulatory T cells suppress germinal center formation in HBV-tolerant mice.

Research paper by Long L Xu, Wenwei W Yin, Rui R Sun, Haiming H Wei, Zhigang Z Tian

Indexed on: 04 Oct '13Published on: 04 Oct '13Published in: PNAS


The liver plays a critical role in inducing systemic immune tolerance, for example, during limiting hypersensitivity to food allergy and in rendering acceptance of allotransplant or even hepatotropic pathogens. We investigated the unknown mechanisms of liver tolerance by using an established hepatitis B virus (HBV)-carrier mouse model, and found that these mice exhibited an antigen-specific tolerance toward peripheral HBsAg vaccination, showing unenlarged draining lymph node (DLN), lower number of germinal centers (GC), and inactivation of GC B cells and follicular T helper (Tfh) cells. Both in vivo and in vitro immune responses toward HBsAg were suppressed by mononuclear cells from HBV-carrier mice, which were CD4(+) Foxp3(-) type 1 regulatory T (Tr1)-like cells producing IL-10. Using recipient Rag1(-/-) mice, hepatic Tr1-like cells from day 7 of HBV-persistent mice acquired the ability to inhibit anti-HBV immunity 3 d earlier than splenic Tr1-like cells, implying that hepatic Tr1-like cells were generated before those in spleen. Kupffer cell depletion or IL-10 deficiency led to impairment of Tr1-like cell generation, along with breaking HBV persistence. The purified EGFP(+)CD4(+) T cells (containing Tr1-like cells) from HBV-carrier mice trafficked in higher numbers to DLN in recipient mice after HBsAg vaccination, and subsequently inactivated both Tfh cells and GC B cells via secreting IL-10, resulting in impaired GC formation and anti-HB antibody production. Thus, our results indicate Tr1-like cells migrate from the liver to the DLN and inhibit peripheral anti-HBV immunity by negatively regulating GC B cells and Tfh cells.