Immunoglobulin on the surface of isolated hepatocytes is associated with antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity and liver damage

D. Vergani, G. Mieli-Vergani, M. Mondelli, B. Portmann, A. L W F Eddleston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hepatocytes isolated from patients with chronic liver disease are often covered by immunoglobulin. The aim of the present study was to establish whether this surface immunoglobulin (SIg) mediates liver cell damage. Freshly isolated hepatocytes from percutaneous liver biopsy of 16 patients with chronic active hepatitis (CAH) (6 HBsAg positive), 3 with HBsAg-positive chronic lobular hepatitis (CLH), 5 with HBsAg-positive chronic persistent hepatitis (CPH) and 12 with minor histological abnormalities (MHA) (5 HBsAg positive) were divided into two aliquots. One was studied for the presence of membrane-bound immunoglobulin and the third component of complement by direct immunofluorescence and the other was incubated, in an allogeneic cytotoxic assay, with peripheral blood mononuclear cells prepared from healthy volunteers as a source of effectors for antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). Liver biopsies were scored for portal and parenchymal inflammatory activity. The percentage of SIg positive hepatocytes was significantly higher in patients with CAH (median 52.5%) than in patients with CLH/CPH (20.5%) or in patients with MHA (1%). Percentages of SIg-positive liver cells were significantly correlated with total liver biopsy scores and with both portal or parenchymal scores considered independently. SIg were found to belong to the IgG class in all groups of patients. When hepatocytes were cultured with normal human lymphocytes, allogeneic cytotoxicity values were significantly higher in patients with CAH (median 34%) than in patients with CLH and CPH (18%) or in those with MHA (12%). Percentage cytotoxicity was positively correlated with total biopsy scores and with portal activity but not with parenchymal activity, suggesting that ADCC might play a damaging role mainly in the portal areas. Our results show that in HBsAg-positive and in HBsAg-negative chronic liver disease IgG on the liver cell membrane is associated with increased susceptibility to in vitro cytotoxicity by killer cells and with increased severity of histological liver damage, suggesting a direct role for these antibodies in the generation of the liver injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-315
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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