Intrahepatic microbes govern liver immunity by programming NKT cells

J Clin Invest. 2022 Apr 15;132(8):e151725. doi: 10.1172/JCI151725.


The gut microbiome shapes local and systemic immunity. The liver is presumed to be a protected sterile site. As such, a hepatic microbiome has not been examined. Here, we showed a liver microbiome in mice and humans that is distinct from that of the gut and is enriched in Proteobacteria. It undergoes dynamic alterations with age and is influenced by the environment and host physiology. Fecal microbial transfer experiments revealed that the liver microbiome is populated from the gut in a highly selective manner. Hepatic immunity is dependent on the microbiome, specifically the bacteroidetes species. Targeting bacteroidetes with oral antibiotics reduced hepatic immune cells by approximately 90%, prevented antigen-presenting cell (APC) maturation, and mitigated adaptive immunity. Mechanistically, our findings are consistent with presentation of bacteroidetes-derived glycosphingolipids to NKT cells promoting CCL5 signaling, which drives hepatic leukocyte expansion and activation, among other possible host-microbe interactions. Collectively, we reveal a microbial/glycosphingolipid/NKT/CCL5 axis that underlies hepatic immunity.

Keywords: Antigen; Chemokines; Hepatology; Innate immunity; Microbiology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Animals
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Liver
  • Mice
  • Natural Killer T-Cells*