Consequences of TCDD Treatment on Intra-Hepatic Lymphocytes During Liver Regeneration

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Increasing evidence demonstrates a physiological role for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) in regulating hepatocyte cell cycle progression. Previous studies have used a murine model of liver regeneration to show that exposure to the potent exogenous AhR ligand, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), suppresses hepatocyte proliferation in vivo. Based on recent reports that natural killer (NK) cells negatively regulate liver regeneration, coupled with the well-established immunomodulatory effects of TCDD, it was hypothesized that alterations in lymphocyte activation contribute to the suppression of liver regeneration in TCDD-treated mice. To test this, mice were treated with TCDD (20 μg/kg) 1 day prior to 70% partial hepatectomy (PH), in which two-thirds of the liver was surgically resected. Lymphocytes were collected from the remnant liver and analyzed by flow cytometry. Whereas exposure to TCDD did not alter the number of NK cells or CD3+ T-cells recovered from the regenerating liver, it reduced the percentage and number of intra-hepatic NKT cells 42 h after PH. With regard to lymphocyte activation, TCDD treatment transiently increased CD69 expression on NK and NKT cells 12 h after PH, but had no effect on intracellular levels of IFNγ in NK, NKT, or CD3+ T-cells. To determine the relevance of NK cells to the suppression of liver regeneration by TCDD, mice were treated with anti-Asialo GM-1 (ASGM-1) antibody to deplete NK cells prior to TCDD treatment and PH, and hepatocyte proliferation was measured using bromodeoxyuridine incorporation. Exposure to TCDD was found to inhibit hepatocyte proliferation in the regenerating liver of NK cell-depleted mice and control mice to the same extent. Hence, it is unlikely that enhanced numbers or increased activation of NK cells contribute to the suppression of liver regeneration in TCDD-treated mice.