Although most self-reactive T cells are eliminated in the thymus, mechanisms to inactivate or control T cells specific for extrathymic antigens are required and exist in the periphery. By investigating the site in which autoreactive T cells are tolerized, we identify a unique mechanism of peripheral deletion in which naïve autoreactive CD8 T cells are rapidly eliminated in the liver after intrahepatic activation. T cells actively invade hepatocytes, enter endosomal/lysosomal compartments, and are degraded. Blockade of this process leads to accumulation of autoreactive CD8 T cells in the liver and breach of tolerance, with the development of autoimmune hepatitis. Cell into cell invasion, or emperipolesis, is a long-observed phenomenon for which a physiological role has not been previously demonstrated. We propose that this “suicidal emperipolesis” is a unique mechanism ofautoreactive T-cell deletion, a process critical for the maintenance of tolerance.
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 108, 16735-16740 (IF: 9.8). (2011)