Conventional liver CD4 T cells are functionally distinct and suppressed by environmental factors
The contribution of intrahepatic conventional T cells to the unique immunologic properties of the liver has not been clearly defined. We isolated bulk and CD4 T cells from mouse liver and compared their functions with each other and with their splenic counterparts. Unlike bulk spleen T cells, bulk liver T cells reacted minimally to allogeneic or antigen-loaded syngeneic dendritic cells. However, after exclusion of natural killer T cells (NKTs) and gammadelta T cells by FACS, liver and spleen CD4 T cells actually proliferated to a similar extent upon allogeneic or antigen-specific stimulation. Liver CD4 T cells were more sensitive to interleukin 2 (IL-2) than were spleen CD4 T cells, but had a similar proliferative potential based on their response to CD3 ligation. In addition, activated liver CD4 T cells produced higher levels of IL-4, IL-5, IL-10, and interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) than did splenic CD4 T cells. Therefore, liver CD4 T cells are intrinsically different from spleen CD4 T cells. In vitro, liver or spleen NKTs and gammadelta T cells suppressed liver and spleen CD4 T-cell proliferation in a dose-dependent fashion. In conclusion, unconventional T cells constrain liver CD4 T-cell function. Our findings have implications for pathological conditions of the liver that involve the response of conventional CD4 T lymphocytes.