Starring stellate cells in liver immunology

Curr Opin Immunol. 2008 Feb;20(1):68-74. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2007.10.006. Epub 2007 Dec 18.


Stellate cells are star-shaped cells located in the liver and mediate a multitude of primarily non-immunological functions. They play a pivotal role in the metabolism of vitamin A and store 80% of total body retinol. Upon activation, stellate cells differentiate to myofibroblasts for production of extracellular matrix, leading to liver fibrosis. Moreover, activated stellate cells regulate liver blood flow through vasoconstriction implicated in portal hypertension. Earlier work demonstrated stellate cell derived secretion of chemokines and cytokines such as transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta), suggesting an association with immunological processes. Indeed, recent evidence indicated that hepatic stellate cells perform potent APC function for stimulation of NKT cells as well as CD8 and CD4 T cells. Additionally, stellate cell mediated antigen presentation induced protective immunity against bacterial infection. Current experiments reveal that the presenting ability of stellate cells is the key to antigen-dependent T cell instruction by vitamin A derived retinoic acid. Finally, future studies will show whether in the firmament of immunology stellate cells will represent fixed or falling stars.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation*
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / immunology*
  • Liver / physiology