CMV infection of human sinusoidal endothelium regulates hepatic T cell recruitment and activation.
BACKGROUND & AIMS Dendritic cell activation through ligation of pattern recognition receptors leading to full functional maturation causes induction of CD8(+) T-cell immunity through increased delivery of costimulatory signals instead of tolerance. Here we investigate whether organ-resident antigen-presenting cells, such as liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs), also switch from tolerogenic to immunogenic CD8(+) T-cell activation upon such stimulation. METHODS Murine LSECs were isolated by immunomagnetic separation and analyzed for functional maturation upon triggering pattern recognition receptors or viral infection employing gene expression analysis and T cell coculture assays. In vivo relevance of the findings was confirmed with bone-marrow chimeric animals. RESULTS LSECs expressed numerous pattern recognition receptors that allowed for sentinel function, but ligand-induced activation of these receptors was not sufficient to overcome tolerance induction of CD8(+) T cells. Importantly, viral infection with murine cytomegalovirus caused functional maturation of antigen-presenting LSECs and was sufficient to promote antigen-specific differentiation into effector CD8(+) T cells in the absence of dendritic cells and independent of CD80/86. CONCLUSIONS These results shed new light on the generation of organ-specific immunity and may contribute to overcoming tolerance in relevant situations, such as cancer.