5 years ago

Pediatric autoimmune hepatitis shows a disproportionate decline of regulatory T cells in the liver and of IL-2 in the blood of patients undergoing therapy

Richard Taubert, Jana Diestelhorst, Jerome Schlue, Norman Junge, Ulrich Baumann, Michael P. Manns, Elmar Jaeckel, Christine S. Falk

by Jana Diestelhorst, Norman Junge, Jerome Schlue, Christine S. Falk, Michael P. Manns, Ulrich Baumann, Elmar Jaeckel, Richard Taubert

Background & Aims

The autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is a chronic hepatitis driven by the adaptive immunity that affects all age groups. A functional and numerical regulatory T cell (Treg) defect has been reported in pediatric AIH (pAIH), while an intrahepatic increase in adult AIH (aAIH) patients has been detected in current research findings.


Therefore, we quantified the intrahepatic numbers of Treg, T and B cells, as well as serum cytokine levels before and during therapy in pAIH.


We found a disproportional intrahepatic enrichment of Tregs in untreated pAIH compared to pediatric non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The increase of Treg/total T cells was even more pronounced than in aAIH due to fewer infiltrating T and B cells. Portal densities of Treg, as well as total T and B cells, declined significantly during therapy. However, portal Treg densities decreased disproportionately, leading to even decreasing ratios of Treg to T and B cells during therapy. Out of 28 serum cytokines IL-2 showed the strongest (10fold) decrease under therapy. This decline of IL-2 was associated with decreasing intrahepatic Treg numbers under therapy. None of the baseline T and B cell infiltration parameters were associated with the subsequent treatment response in pAIH.


Intrahepatic Tregs are rather enriched in untreated pAIH. The disproportional decrease of Tregs during therapy may be caused by a decrease of IL-2 levels. New therapies should, therefore, aim in strengthening intrahepatic immune regulation.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0181107

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