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Hepatology : official journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases
BACKGROUND AND AIMS:T cells from patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) show a prominent interleukin (IL)-17 response upon stimulation with bacteria or fungi, yet the reasons for this dominant T-helper 17 (Th17) response in PSC are not clear. Here, we analyzed the potential role of monocytes in microbial recognition and in skewing the T-cell response toward Th17. APPROACH AND RESULTS:Monocytes and T cells from blood and livers of PSC patients and controls were analyzed ex vivo and in vitro using transwell experiments with cholangiocytes. Cytokine production was measured using flow cytometry, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, RNA in situ hybridization, and quantitative real-time PCR. Genetic polymorphisms were obtained from ImmunoChip analysis. Following ex vivo stimulation with phorbol myristate acetate/ionomycin, PSC patients showed significantly increased numbers of IL-17A-producing peripheral blood CD4+ T cells compared to PBC patients and healthy controls, indicating increased Th17 differentiation in vivo. Upon stimulation with microbes, monocytes from PSC patients produced significantly more IL-1β and IL-6, cytokines known to drive Th17 cell differentiation. Moreover, microbe-activated monocytes induced the secretion of Th17 and monocyte-recruiting chemokines chemokine (C-C motif) ligand (CCL)-20 and CCL-2 in human primary cholangiocytes. In livers of patients with PSC cirrhosis, CD14hiCD16int and CD14loCD16hi monocytes/macrophages were increased compared to alcoholic cirrhosis, and monocytes were found to be located around bile ducts. CONCLUSIONS:PSC patients show increased Th17 differentiation already in vivo. Microbe-stimulated monocytes drive Th17 differentiation in vitro and induce cholangiocytes to produce chemokines mediating recruitment of Th17 cells and more monocytes into portal tracts. Taken together, these results point to a pathogenic role of monocytes in patients with PSC.