Role for hedgehog pathway in regulating growth and function of invariant NKT cells

Eur J Immunol. 2009 Jul;39(7):1879-92. doi: 10.1002/eji.200838890.


Lymphocyte accumulation is characteristic of chronic hepatitis, but the mechanisms regulating lymphocyte numbers and their roles in liver disease progression are poorly understood. The Hedgehog (Hh) pathway regulates thymic development and lymphopoeisis during embryogenesis, and is activated in fibrosing liver disease in adults. Our objective was to determine if Hh ligands regulate the viability and phenotype of NKT cells, which comprise a substantial sub-population of resident lymphocytes in healthy adult livers and often accumulate during liver fibrosis. The results demonstrate that a mouse invariant NKT cell line (DN32 iNKT cells), mouse primary liver iNKT cells, and human peripheral blood iNKT cells are all responsive to sonic hedgehog (Shh). In cultured iNKT cells, Shh enhances proliferation, inhibits apoptosis, induces activation, and stimulates expression of the pro-fibrogenic cytokine, IL-13. Livers of transgenic mice with an overly active Hh pathway harbor increased numbers of iNKT cells. iNKT cells also express Shh. These results demonstrate that iNKT cells produce and respond to Hh ligands, and that Hh pathway activation regulates the size and cytokine production of liver iNKT cell populations. Therefore, Hh pathway activation may contribute to the local expansion of pro-fibrogenic iNKT cell populations during certain types of fibrosing liver damage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Ducts / cytology
  • Bile Ducts / immunology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Hedgehog Proteins / genetics
  • Hedgehog Proteins / metabolism*
  • Hedgehog Proteins / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hybridomas
  • Interferon-gamma / genetics
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-10 / genetics
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-13 / genetics
  • Interleukin-13 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-4 / genetics
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / drug effects
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / immunology
  • Natural Killer T-Cells / metabolism*
  • Patched Receptors
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 3 Protein
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling Proteins / genetics
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling Proteins / metabolism


  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Interleukin-13
  • Patched Receptors
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Shh protein, mouse
  • Socs3 protein, mouse
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 3 Protein
  • Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling Proteins
  • Interleukin-10
  • Interleukin-4
  • Interferon-gamma