Human hepatocytes express an array of proinflammatory cytokines after agonist stimulation or bacterial invasion

Am J Physiol. 1997 Aug;273(2 Pt 1):G322-32. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.1997.273.2.G322.


Inflammatory cells infiltrate the liver in response to microbial infection or hepatic injury. To assess the potential role hepatocytes may play in initiating or amplifying the acute inflammatory response in the liver, we used three human hepatocyte cell lines and primary human hepatocyte cultures to characterize the repertoire of cytokines that can be expressed and regulated in hepatocytes in response to agonist stimulation or bacterial infection. As reported herein, a proinflammatory cytokine gene program that includes C-X-C and C-C chemokines [interleukin-8(IL-8), growth related (GRO)-alpha, GRO-beta, GRO-gamma, epithelial neutrophil activating peptide-78 (ENA-78), and RANTES] and the cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) and macrophage colony stimulating factor was upregulated in human hepatocytes after stimulation with IL-1 alpha or TNF-alpha or bacterial invasion. In contrast, expression of hematopoietic/ lymphoid growth factors by the same cells was either down-regulated (erythropoietin and stem cell factor) or unchanged (IL-7 and IL-15) in response to the identical stimuli. Hepatocytes did not express cytokines that often are associated with the regulation of antigen-specific immune responses (IL-2, IL-4, IL-5, IL-10, IL-12p40, IL-13, and interferon-gamma) or genes for several other proinflammatory cytokines [IL-1 alpha, IL-6, monocyte chemotactic protein-1 (MCP-1), and MCP-3] or hematopoietic growth factors (granulocyte colony stimulating factor, granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor, IL-3, and IL-11). Together, these studies suggest that hepatocytes can both initiate and amplify acute inflammatory responses in the liver through the regulated expression and secretion of a specific array of proinflammatory cytokines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Infections / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemokine CXCL1
  • Chemokine CXCL2
  • Chemokines / metabolism
  • Chemokines, CXC*
  • Chemotactic Factors / metabolism
  • Chemotactic Factors / physiology
  • Cytokines / agonists*
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression
  • Growth Substances / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins*
  • Interleukin-1 / pharmacology
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Neutrophils / physiology


  • CXCL1 protein, human
  • CXCL2 protein, human
  • Chemokine CXCL1
  • Chemokine CXCL2
  • Chemokines
  • Chemokines, CXC
  • Chemotactic Factors
  • Cytokines
  • Growth Substances
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-8