Lipids in bile activate natural killer T cells

Natural killer T (NKT) cells are abundant immune cells in liver and activated by lipids (fat molecules).

To determine if activating lipids are found in liver bile, we co-cultured NKT cell lines with bile collected from the gallbaldder of patients undergoing liver transplantation, including those with PSC.

We found that patient bile samples can activate several NKT cell lines at very low concentrations suggesting that activating lipids are present and highly potent in bile. Activating lipids in bile may originate from bacteria as one third of activating bile samples (4 of 12) contained microbial DNA.

Our results reveal lipids in bile can activate NKT cells in liver patients and these findings further support the role of NKT cells in hepatobiliary diseases such as PSC.

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