Innate immune cell dysfunction and systemic inflammation in children with chronic liver diseases undergoing transplantation

Am J Transplant. 2023 Jan;23(1):26-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ajt.2022.09.004. Epub 2023 Jan 11.


Advanced liver diseases (ALD) can affect immune function and compromise host defense against infections. In this study, we examined the phenotypic and functional alterations in circulating monocyte and dendritic cells (DCs) in children with ALD undergoing liver transplantation (LT). Children were stratified into 2 clusters, C1 (mild) and C2 (severe), on the basis of laboratory parameters of ALD and compared with healthy pediatric controls. Children in C2 had a significant reduction in frequencies of nonclassical monocytes and myeloid DCs. Children in C2 displayed monocyte and DC dysfunction, characterized by lower human leucocyte antigen DR expression and reduced interleukin 12 production, and had an increased incidence of infections before and after LT. Children in C2 demonstrated immune dysregulation with elevations of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in plasma. Alterations of innate immune cells correlated with multiple laboratory parameters of ALD, including plasma bile acids. In vitro, monocytes cultured with specific bile acids demonstrated a dose-dependent reduction in interleukin 12 production, similar to alterations in children with ALD. In conclusion, a cohort of children with ALD undergoing LT exhibited innate immune dysfunction, which may be related to the chronic elevation of serum bile acids. Identifying at-risk patients may permit personalized management pre- and post-transplant, thereby reducing the incidence of infection-related complications.

Keywords: bile acids; dendritic cells; immune dysfunction; interleukin 12; monocytes; pediatrics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cytokines* / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Interleukin-12
  • Liver Diseases* / metabolism
  • Liver Diseases* / surgery
  • Monocytes


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-12