Mouse and Human Liver Contain Immunoglobulin A-Secreting Cells Originating From Peyer's Patches and Directed Against Intestinal Antigens

Gastroenterology. 2016 Aug;151(2):311-23. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2016.04.014. Epub 2016 Apr 27.


Background & aims: The liver receives blood from the gastrointestinal tract through the portal vein, and thereby is exposed continuously to dietary antigens and commensal bacteria. Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is associated with intestinal dysbiosis, increased intestinal permeability, release of microbes into the portal circulation, and increased serum levels and liver deposits of IgA. We characterized B-cell production of IgA in livers of mice at homeostasis, after oral immunization, in a mouse model of ALD and in human liver samples.

Methods: We performed studies with Balb/c and C57BL/6-Ly5.1 mice, as well as transgenic mice (quasimonoclonal, activation-induced [cytidine] deaminase-Cre-tamoxifen-dependent estrogen receptor 2 [ERT2], Blimp-1-green fluorescent protein [GFP]). C57BL/6-Ly5.1 mice were fed chronic plus binge ethanol to create a model of ALD. Some mice also were given repeated injections of FTY720, which prevents egress of IgA-secreting cells from Peyer's patches. We obtained nontumor liver tissues from patients with colorectal carcinoma undergoing surgery for liver metastases or hepatocellular carcinoma. B cells were isolated from mouse and human liver tissues and analyzed by flow cytometry and enzyme-linked ImmunoSpot (ELISpot). In wild-type and transgenic mice, we traced newly generated IgA-secreting cells at steady state and after oral immunization with 4-hydroxy-3-nitrophenylacetyl (NP)-Ficoll or cholera toxin. IgA responses were also evaluated in our model of ALD.

Results: Livers of control mice contained proliferative plasmablasts that originated from Peyer's patches and produced IgAs reactive to commensal bacteria. After oral immunization with cholera toxin or a thymus-independent antigen, a substantial number of antigen-specific IgA-secreting cells was found in the liver. Mice fed ethanol had features of hepatitis and increased numbers of IgA-secreting cells in liver, compared with mice given control diets, as well as higher levels of serum IgA and IgA deposits in liver sinusoids. Injection of FTY720 during ethanol feeding reduced liver and serum levels of IgA and IgA deposits in liver and prevented liver injury. Human liver tissues contained a significant proportion of IgA-producing plasma cells that shared phenotypic and functional attributes with those from mouse liver, including reactivity to commensal bacteria.

Conclusions: Based on studies of mice and human liver tissues, we found the liver to be a site of IgA production by B cells, derived from gut-associated lymphoid tissues. These IgAs react with commensal bacteria and oral antigens. Livers from mice with ethanol-induced injury contain increased numbers of IgA-secreting cells and have IgA deposits in sinusoids. IgAs in the liver could mediate clearance of gut-derived antigens that arrive through portal circulation at homeostasis and protect these organs from pathogens.

Keywords: Hepatic; Humoral Response; Microbiota; S1PR1.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Hepatocytes / immunology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / biosynthesis*
  • Intestines / immunology*
  • Liver / cytology*
  • Liver / immunology
  • Liver / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Peyer's Patches / immunology*


  • Antigens
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory