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Xiaoyan Li and Yujie Su contributed equally to this work
Liver fibrosis which mainly occurs upon chronic hepatitis virus infection potentially leads to portal hypertension, hepatic failure and hepatocellular carcinoma. However, the immune status of Th17 and Treg cells in liver fibrosis is controversial and the exact mechanisms remain largely elusive.
Liver tissues and peripheral blood were obtained simultaneously from 32 hepatitis B virus infected patients undergoing surgery for hepatocellular carcinoma at the medical center of Sun Yat-sen University. Liver tissues at least 3 cm away from the tumor site were used for the analyses. Levels of Th17 cells and regulatory T cells were detected by flow cytometry analysis and immunohistochemistry. In vitro experiment, we adopted magnetic cell sorting to investigate how hepatic stellate cells regulate the levels of Th17 cells and regulatory T cells.
We found that hepatic Th17 cells and regulatory T cells were increased in patients with advanced stage HBV-related liver fibrosis. Hepatic stellate cells upregulated the levels of Th17 cells and regulatory T cells via PGE2/EP2 and EP4 pathway.
We found that the increased levels of Th17 cells and regulatory T cells were upregulated by hepatic stellate cells. These results may provide insight into the role of hepatic stellate cells and Th17 cells and regulatory T cells in the persistence of fibrosis and into the occurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma following cirrhosis.