Mechanisms of bile acid–induced (BA-induced) liver injury in cholestasis are controversial, limiting development of new therapies. We examined how BAs initiate liver injury using isolated liver cells from humans and mice and in-vivo mouse models. At pathophysiologic concentrations, BAs induced proinflammatory cytokine expression in mouse and human hepatocytes, but not in nonparenchymal cells or cholangiocytes. These hepatocyte-specific cytokines stimulated neutrophil chemotaxis. Inflammatory injury was mitigated in Ccl2–/– mice treated with BA or after bile duct ligation, where less hepatic infiltration of neutrophils was detected. Neutrophils in periportal areas of livers from cholestatic patients also correlated with elevations in their serum aminotransferases. This liver-specific inflammatory response required BA entry into hepatocytes via basolateral transporter Ntcp. Pathophysiologic levels of BAs induced markers of ER stress and mitochondrial damage in mouse hepatocytes. Chemokine induction by BAs was reduced in hepatocytes from Tlr9–/– mice, while liver injury was diminished both in conventional and hepatocyte-specific Tlr9–/– mice, confirming a role for Tlr9 in BA-induced liver injury. These findings reveal potentially novel mechanisms whereby BAs elicit a hepatocyte-specific cytokine-induced inflammatory liver injury that involves innate immunity and point to likely novel pathways for treating cholestatic liver disease.


Shi-Ying Cai, Xinshou Ouyang, Yonglin Chen, Carol J. Soroka, Juxian Wang, Albert Mennone, Yucheng Wang, Wajahat Z. Mehal, Dhanpat Jain, James L. Boyer


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