Endoplasmic reticulum stress, hepatocyte CD1d and NKT cell abnormalities in murine fatty livers

Lab Invest. 2007 Sep;87(9):927-37. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.3700603. Epub 2007 Jul 2.


The liver regulates lipid homeostasis and is enriched with natural killer T (NKT) cells that respond to lipid antigens. Optimal maturation and activation of NKT cells requires their interaction with lipid antigens that are presented by cluster of differentiation-1 (CD-1) molecules on antigen-presenting cells. Hepatocytes express CD1d and present lipid antigens to NKT cells. Depletion and dysregulation of hepatic NKT cells occurs in mice with fatty livers. Herein, we assess whether reduced CD1d content on steatotic hepatocytes contributes to fatty liver-associated NKT cell abnormalities. We show that despite expressing normal levels of CD1d mRNA, fatty hepatocytes from ob/ob mice have significantly less CD1d on their plasma membranes than normal hepatocytes. This has functional significance because ob/ob hepatocytes are less able to activate CD1d-restricted T-cell responses in vitro, and CD1d-reactive NKT cells are reduced in ob/ob livers. Events in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) normally regulate CD1d trafficking to plasma membranes. Hepatic steatosis has been associated with ER stress. To determine if ER stress reduces CD-1 accumulation on hepatocytes, we evaluated hepatic ER stress in ob/ob mice and treated cultured hepatocytes and lean mice with tunicamycin to induce ER stress. Lipid accumulation and ER stress occurred in the livers of both ob/ob and tunicamycin-treated mice. Tunicamycin caused dose-dependent decreases in hepatocyte CD1d, inhibited hepatocyte activation of CD1d-restricted T-cell responses, depleted liver populations of CD1d-reactive NKT cells and promoted Th-1 polarization of hepatic cytokine production. In conclusion, ER stress-related decreases in hepatocyte CD1d contribute to NKT cell dysregulation in fatty livers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD1 / metabolism*
  • Antigens, CD1d
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / immunology
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Fatty Liver / immunology
  • Fatty Liver / physiopathology*
  • Galactosylceramides / immunology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Obesity


  • Antigens, CD1
  • Antigens, CD1d
  • Galactosylceramides
  • alpha-galactosylceramide