Chemokines are small molecular weight proteins primarily known to drive migration of immune cell populations. In both acute and chronic liver injury, hepatic chemokine expression is induced resulting in inflammatory cell infiltration, angiogenesis, and cell activation and survival. During acute injury, massive parenchymal cell death due to apoptosis and/or necrosis leads to chemokine production by hepatocytes, cholangiocytes, Kupffer cells, hepatic stellate cells, and sinusoidal endothelial cells. The specific chemokine profile expressed during injury is dependent on both the type and course of injury. Hepatotoxicity by acetaminophen for example leads to cellular necrosis and activation of Toll-like receptors while the inciting insult in ischemia reperfusion injury produces reactive oxygen species and subsequent production of pro-inflammatory chemokines. Chemokine expression by these cells generates a chemoattractant gradient promoting infiltration by monocytes/macrophages, NK cells, NKT cells, neutrophils, B cells, and T cells whose activity are highly regulated by the specific chemokine profiles within the liver. Additionally, resident hepatic cells express chemokine receptors both in the normal and injured liver. While the role of these receptors in normal liver has not been well described, during injury, receptor up-regulation, and chemokine engagement leads to cellular survival, proliferation, apoptosis, fibrogenesis, and expression of additional chemokines and growth factors. Hepatic-derived chemokines can therefore function in both paracrine and autocrine fashions further expanding their role in liver disease. More recently it has been appreciated that chemokines can have diverging effects depending on their temporal expression pattern and the type of injury. A better understanding of chemokine/chemokine receptor axes will therefore pave the way for development of novel targeted therapies for the treatment of liver disease.
Keywords: acute liver injury; chemokines.