The portal vein as a distinct immunological compartment - A comprehensive immune phenotyping study

Hum Immunol. 2018 Oct;79(10):716-723. doi: 10.1016/j.humimm.2018.07.233. Epub 2018 Jul 30.


Advanced liver diseases are associated with impaired intestinal barrier function, which results in bacterial influx via the portal vein to the liver, causing hepatic and systemic inflammation. Little is known about possible concomitant trafficking of immune cells from the intestines to the liver. We therefore performed a comprehensive immunophenotyping study of the portal venous versus peripheral blood compartment in patients with liver cirrhosis who received a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic stent shunt (TIPS). Our analysis suggests that the portal vein constitutes a distinct immunological compartment resembling that of the intestines, at least in patients with advanced liver cirrhosis. In detail, significantly lower frequencies of naïve CD4+ T cells, monocytes, dendritic cells and Vδ2 T cells were observed in the portal vein, whereas frequencies of activated CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, as well as of mucosa-associated Vδ1 T cells were significantly higher in portal venous compared to peripheral blood. In conclusion, our data raises interesting questions, e.g. whether liver cirrhosis-associated chronic inflammation of the intestines and portal hypertension promote an influx of activated intestinal immune cells like γδ T cells into the liver.

Keywords: Immunophenotyping; Liver cirrhosis; Portal vein; Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic stent shunt (TIPS); γδ T cells.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune System*
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Portal Vein / immunology*
  • Portal Vein / metabolism*
  • Portal Vein / pathology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta / metabolism
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism


  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, alpha-beta
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta