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Humanized mice reveal an essential role for human hepatocytes in the development of the liver immune system

Jinglong Guo, Yang Li, Yanhong Shan, Chang Shu, Feng Wang, Xue Wang, Ge Zheng, Jin He, Zheng Hu, Yong-Guang Yang
Cell Death & Disease 2018 June 4, 9 (6): 667
The liver is an immunological organ with a distinct immune cell profile. Although the composition and function of liver immune cells have been widely investigated, the mechanisms regulating the development and homeostasis of the specialized immune system, especially in humans, remain largely unknown. Herein, we address this question in humanized mice (hu-mice) that were constructed by transplantation of human fetal thymus and CD34+ hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells in immunodeficient mice with or without autologous human hepatocyte engraftment. Although the levels of human immune cell reconstitution in peripheral blood and spleen were comparable between hu-mice with and without human hepatocyte engraftment, the former group showed that human immune cell reconstitution in the liver was significantly improved. Notably, human immune cells, including Kupffer cells, dendritic cells and natural killer cells, were shown to be closely colocalized with human hepatocytes in the liver. Human hepatocytes engrafted in the mouse liver were found to produce IL-3, IL-15, GM-CSF, M-CSF, MCP-1, CXCL-1 and CXCL-10, which are known to be important for immune cell development, differentiation, tissue migration and retention, and have no or poor cross-reaction between humans and mice. Furthermore, human hepatocytes were able to support human immune cell survival and expansion in an in vitro co-culture assay. This study demonstrates an essential role for hepatocytes in the development and maintenance of the liver immune cell profile. The hu-mouse model with human autologous immune cell and hepatocyte reconstitution has potential for use in studies of the pathogenesis of liver immune disorders such as hepatotropic virus infections.


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