Immune Responses in the Liver

Annu Rev Immunol. 2018 Apr 26:36:247-277. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-051116-052415. Epub 2018 Jan 12.


The liver is a key, frontline immune tissue. Ideally positioned to detect pathogens entering the body via the gut, the liver appears designed to detect, capture, and clear bacteria, viruses, and macromolecules. Containing the largest collection of phagocytic cells in the body, this organ is an important barrier between us and the outside world. Importantly, as portal blood also transports a large number of foreign but harmless molecules (e.g., food antigens), the liver's default immune status is anti-inflammatory or immunotolerant; however, under appropriate conditions, the liver is able to mount a rapid and robust immune response. This balance between immunity and tolerance is essential to liver function. Excessive inflammation in the absence of infection leads to sterile liver injury, tissue damage, and remodeling; insufficient immunity allows for chronic infection and cancer. Dynamic interactions between the numerous populations of immune cells in the liver are key to maintaining this balance and overall tissue health.

Keywords: adaptive; inflammation; innate; liver; sentinel; tolerance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / immunology
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / metabolism
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / virology
  • Humans
  • Immune System Phenomena*
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Liver / blood supply
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / immunology*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology