Apotopes and innate immune system: Novel players in the primary biliary cirrhosis scenario

Ana Lleo, Pietro Invernizzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our understanding of primary biliary cirrhosis has been rapidly growing over the past decade and the disease is now regarded as a model for other female-predominant, organ-specific autoimmune conditions. Primary biliary cirrhosis ensues from a multi-lineage loss of tolerance to the E2 component of the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex. One of the major unanswered questions in the pathogenesis of primary biliary cirrhosis is the specificity of small intrahepatic bile ducts attack while PDC-E2 is present in mitochondria of all nucleated cells. Recent findings suggest that the uniqueness of the primary target tissue, biliary epithelium, may be of considerable importance for understanding primary biliary cirrhosis and that the biliary epithelial cell is more than an innocent victim. Rather, it attracts an immune attack by virtue of the unique apoptotic mechanisms and by the way it handles PDC-E2. Moreover, recent evidence suggests that apoptotic bodies of biliary epithelial cell are able to activate the innate immune system in the presence of anti-mitochondrial antibodies. This review article is intended to provide a critical overview of the role of apoptosis in biliary epithelial cells, the activation of the innate immune system, and its biological and clinical significance in primary biliary cirrhosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-636
Number of pages7
JournalDigestive and Liver Disease
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Apoptosis
  • Apotopes
  • Biliary epithelial cells
  • IL12
  • Macrophages
  • Mitochondrial antigens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Hepatology


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