T cell targeting and phagocytosis of apoptotic biliary epithelial cells in primary biliary cirrhosis

Jorge Allina, Bin Hu, Daniel M. Sullivan, Maria Isabel Fiel, Swan N. Thung, Steven F. Bronk, Robert C. Huebert, Judy van de Water, Nicholas F. LaRusso, M. E. Gershwin, Gregory J. Gores, Joseph A. Odin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is characterized by loss of tolerance against ubiquitously expressed mitochondrial autoantigens followed by biliary and salivary gland epithelial cell (BEC and SGEC) destruction by autoreactive T cells. It is unclear why BECs and SGECs are targeted. Previous work demonstrated that the reduced form of the major PBC autoantigen predominated in apoptotic BECs and SGECs as opposed to an oxidized form in other apoptotic cells. This led to the hypothesis that presentation of novel self-peptides from phagocytosed apoptotic BECs might contribute to BEC targeting by autoreactive T cells. The effect of autoantigen redox status on self-peptide formation was examined along with the phagocytic ability of BECs. Oxidation of PBC autoantigens first was shown to be due to protein S-glutathionylation of lipoyllysine residues. Absence of protein S-glutathionylation generated novel self-peptides and affected T cell recognition of a lipoyllysine containing peptide. Liver biopsy staining revealed BEC phagocytosis of apoptotic BECs (3.74 ± 2.90% of BEC) was present in PBC (7 of 7 cases) but not in normal livers (0 of 3). BECs have the ability to present novel mitochondrial self-peptides derived from phagocytosed apoptotic BECs. Apoptotic cell phagocytosis by non-professional phagocytes may influence the tissue specificity of autoimmune diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-241
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Autoimmunity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Apoptosis
  • Autoantigen
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Protein S-glutathionylation
  • Pyruvate dehydrogenase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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