Pathogenesis of autoimmune hepatitis

Biomed Pharmacother. 1999 Jun;53(5-6):255-63. doi: 10.1016/S0753-3322(99)80096-1.


Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is an idiopathic disorder affecting the hepatic parenchyma. There are no morphological features that are pathognomonic of the condition but the characteristic histological picture is that of an interface hepatitis without other changes that are more typical of other liver diseases. It is associated with hypergammaglobulinaemia, high titres of a wide range of circulating auto-antibodies, often a family history of other disorders that are thought to have an autoimmune basis, and a striking response to immunosuppressive therapy. The pathogenetic mechanisms are not yet fully understood but there is now considerable circumstantial evidence suggesting that: (a) there is an underlying genetic predisposition to the disease; (b) this may relate to several defects in immunological control of autoreactivity, with consequent loss of self-tolerance to liver auto-antigens; (c) it is likely that an initiating factor, such as a hepatotropic viral infection or an idiosyncratic reaction to a drug or other hepatotoxin, is required to induce the disease in susceptible individuals; and, (d) the final effector mechanism of tissue damage probably involves auto-antibodies reacting with liver-specific antigens expressed on hepatocyte surfaces, rather than direct T-cell cytotoxicity against hepatocytes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / etiology
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / immunology*
  • Hepatitis, Autoimmune / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Liver / immunology
  • Liver / pathology