Semin Liver Dis 2007; 27(2): 129-139
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-979466
Copyright © 2007 by Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 333 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA.

The Immunological Milieu of the Liver

Carlo Selmi1 , 2 , Ian R. Mackay3 , M. Eric Gershwin1
  • 1Division of Rheumatology, Allergy, and Clinical Immunology, University of California at Davis, Davis, California
  • 2Division of Internal Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences “Luigi Sacco”, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
  • 3Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
22 May 2007 (online)


From the immunology standpoint, the liver is a peculiar organ for several reasons that range from its anatomical location to its cytoarchitecture and its variety of specific functions. Receiving blood directly from the digestive system, the liver is the crossroad at which the majority of antigens enter the organism. Hence, the milieu of the liver must provide a finely tuned balance between generating tolerance to self as well as to nonpathogenic molecules and microorganisms and producing an appropriate immune response to pathogens. Knowledge of the mechanisms that effectively maintain this balance is critical to the understanding of the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory liver diseases, infectious, autoimmune, and others. Several theories have been proposed to explain what causes one or another response to take precedence. Although no definitive answer is yet available, the critical elements include, for tolerance, the particular cytoarchitectural features and the intrahepatic existence of antigen-presenting cells and, for immunity, inflammatory expressions including type 1 cytokines and chemokines, notably CCR5. Herein we review the available data on immune responses in the liver with particular emphasis on the unique structural and functional features of this “lymphoid” organ.


M. Eric Gershwin, M.D. 

Division of Rheumatology, Allergy, and Clinical Immunology, University of California at Davis School of Medicine, Genome and Biomedical Sciences Facility

451 E. Health Sciences Drive, Suite 6510, Davis, CA 95616