Diet Reversal and Immune Modulation Show Key Role for Liver and Adipose Tissue T Cells in Murine Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis

Mikhaïl A. Van Herck, Luisa Vonghia, Wilhelmus J. Kwanten, Yvon Julé, Thomas Vanwolleghem, Didier G. Ebo, Peter P. Michielsen, Joris G. De Man, Lucio Gama, Benedicte Y. De Winter, Sven M. Francque

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a multisystem condition, implicating liver and adipose tissue. Although the general involvement of the innate and adaptive immune system has been established, we aimed to define the exact role of the functionally diverse T-cell subsets in NASH pathogenesis through diet reversal and immunologic modulation. Methods: Multiple experimental set-ups were used in 8-week-old C57BL/6J mice, including prolonged high-fat high-fructose diet (HFHFD) feeding, diet reversal from HFHFD to control diet, and administration of anti-CD8a and anti–interleukin 17A antibodies. Plasma alanine aminotransferase, glucose, and lipid levels were determined. Liver and adipose tissue were assessed histologically. Cytotoxic T (Tc), regulatory T, T helper (Th) 1, and Th17 cells were characterized in liver and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) via flow cytometry and RNA analysis. Results: HFHFD feeding induced the metabolic syndrome and NASH, which coincided with an increase in hepatic Th17, VAT Tc, and VAT Th17 cells, and a decrease in VAT regulatory T cells. Although diet reversal induced a phenotypical metabolic and hepatic normalization, the observed T-cell disruptions persisted. Treatment with anti-CD8a antibodies decreased Tc cell numbers in all investigated tissues and induced a biochemical and histologic attenuation of the HFHFD-induced NASH. Conversely, anti–interleukin 17A antibodies decreased hepatic inflammation without affecting other features of NASH or the metabolic syndrome. Conclusions: HFHFD feeding induces important immune disruptions in multiple hepatic and VAT T-cell subsets, refractory to diet reversal. In particular, VAT Tc cells are critically involved in NASH pathogenesis, linking adipose tissue inflammation to liver disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-490
Number of pages24
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


  • Adipose Tissue Inflammation
  • Cytotoxic T Cells
  • Regulatory T Cells
  • T Helper 1 Cells
  • T Helper 17 Cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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