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Natural Killer cells and liver fibrosis

By Frank eFasbender, Agata eWidera, Jan G Hengstler and Carsten eWatzl


In the 40 years since the discovery of Natural Killer (NK) cells it has been well established that these innate lymphocytes are important for early and effective immune responses against transformed cells and infections with different pathogens. In addition to these classical functions of NK cells, we now know that they are part of a larger family of innate lymphoid cells and that they can even mediate memory-like responses. Additionally, tissue resident NK cells with distinct phenotypical and functional characteristics have been identified. Here we focus on the phenotype of different NK cell subpopulations that can be found in the liver and summarize the current knowledge about the functional role of these cells with a special emphasis on liver fibrosis. NK cell cytotoxicity can contribute to liver damage in different forms of liver disease. However, NK cells can limit liver fibrosis by killing hepatic stellate cell-derived myofibroblasts, which play a key role in this pathogenic process. Therefore, liver NK cells need to be tightly regulated in order to balance these beneficial and pathological effects

Topics: Cytotoxicity, Immunologic, Fibrosis, stellate cells, Liver disease, Natural Killer cells, Immunologic diseases. Allergy, RC581-607
Publisher: Frontiers Media S.A.
Year: 2016
DOI identifier: 10.3389/fimmu.2016.00019
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