B cell deficient mice are protected from biliary obstruction in the rotavirus-induced mouse model of biliary atresia

PLoS One. 2013 Aug 21;8(8):e73644. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073644. eCollection 2013.


A leading theory regarding the pathogenesis of biliary atresia (BA) is that bile duct injury is initiated by a virus infection, followed by an autoimmune response targeting bile ducts. In experimental models of autoimmune diseases, B cells have been shown to play an important role. The aim of this study was to determine the role of B cells in the development of biliary obstruction in the Rhesus rotavirus (RRV)-induced mouse model of BA. Wild-type (WT) and B cell-deficient (Ig-α(-/-)) mice received RRV shortly after birth. Ig-α(-/-) RRV-infected mice had significantly increased disease-free survival rate compared to WT RRV-infected BA mice (76.8% vs. 17.5%). In stark contrast to the RRV-infected BA mice, the RRV-infected Ig-α(-/-) mice did not have hyperbilirubinemia or bile duct obstruction. The RRV-infected Ig-α(-/-) mice had significantly less liver inflammation and Th1 cytokine production compared to RRV-infected WT mice. In addition, Ig-α(-/-) mice had significantly increased numbers of regulatory T cells (Tregs) at baseline and after RRV infection compared to WT mice. However, depletion of Tregs in Ig-α(-/-) mice did not induce biliary obstruction, indicating that the expanded Tregs in the Ig-α(-/-) mice were not the sole reason for protection from disease. Conclusion : B cell deficient Ig-α(-/-) mice are protected from biliary obstruction in the RRV-induced mouse model of BA, indicating a primary role of B cells in mediating disease pathology. The mechanism of protection may involve lack of B cell antigen presentation, which impairs T-cell activation and Th1 inflammation. Immune modulators that inhibit B cell function may be a new strategy for treatment of BA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / immunology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Biliary Atresia / complications
  • Biliary Atresia / immunology*
  • Biliary Atresia / virology
  • Cholestasis / prevention & control*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Mice
  • Rotavirus / pathogenicity*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology