Naive T cell activation is normally restricted to the lymphoid organs, in part because of their limited ability to migrate into the parenchyma of peripheral tissues. The liver vasculature is unique, however, and circulating leukocytes within the hepatic sinusoids have direct access to liver-resident cells, which include an abundant population of Kupffer cells. It is well accepted that recognition of cognate Ag within the liver leads to naive CD8(+) T cellactivation in situ, but it is unclear whether the liver also supports naive CD4(+) T cell activation. In this study, we show that naive CD4(+) T cells can be activated to proliferate in the liver when cognate Ag expression is induced in hepatocytes by recombinant adeno-associated viral vectors. Ag-specific retention and activation of naive CD4(+) T cells within the liver are independent of lymphoid tissues but dependent on a clodronate liposome-sensitive population of liver-resident phagocytic cells. To our knowledge, this study provides the first unequivocal evidence that naive CD4(+) T cellscan be activated in a nonlymphoid organ. It also gives critical insight into how CD4(+) T cells specific for Ag expressed in the liver are recruited to participate in protective or pathological responses during hepatotropic infections and autoimmune liver disease.
J Immunol. 193, 2087-2095 (IF: 5.8). (2014)