T Cells Infiltrating Diseased Liver Express Ligands for the NKG2D Stress Surveillance System.
Huang W-C., Easom NJ., Tang X-Z., Gill US., Singh H., Robertson F., Chang C., Trowsdale J., Davidson BR., Rosenberg WM., Fusai G., Toubert A., Kennedy PT., Peppa D., Maini MK.
NK cells, which are highly enriched in the liver, are potent regulators of antiviral T cells and immunopathology in persistent viral infection. We investigated the role of the NKG2D axis in T cell/NK cell interactions in hepatitis B. Activated and hepatitis B virus (HBV)-specific T cells, particularly the CD4 fraction, expressed NKG2D ligands (NKG2DL), which were not found on T cells from healthy controls (p < 0.001). NKG2DL-expressing T cells were strikingly enriched within HBV-infected livers compared with the periphery or to healthy livers (p < 0.001). NKG2D+NK cells were also increased and preferentially activated in the HBV-infected liver (p < 0.001), in direct proportion to the percentage of MICA/B-expressing CD4 T cells colocated within freshly isolated liver tissue (p < 0.001). This suggests that NKG2DL induced on T cells within a diseased organ can calibrate NKG2D-dependent activation of local NK cells; furthermore, NKG2D blockade could rescue HBV-specific and MICA/B-expressing T cells from HBV-infected livers. To our knowledge, this is the first ex vivo demonstration that non-virally infected human T cells can express NKG2DL, with implications for stress surveillance by the large number of NKG2D-expressing NK cells sequestered in the liver.