How the biliary tree maintains immune tolerance?

Haiyan Zhang, Patrick S.C. Leung, M. Eric Gershwin, Xiong Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The liver is a vital organ with distinctive anatomy, histology and heterogeneous cell populations. These characteristics are of particular importance in maintaining immune homeostasis within the liver microenvironments, notably the biliary tree. Cholangiocytes are the first line of defense of the biliary tree against foreign substances, and are equipped to participate through various immunological pathways. Indeed, cholangiocytes protect against pathogens by TLRs-related signaling; maintain tolerance by expression of IRAK-M and PPARγ; limit immune response by inducing apoptosis of leukocytes; present antigen by expressing human leukocyte antigen molecules and costimulatory molecules; recruit leukocytes to the target site by expressing cytokines and chemokines. However, breach of tolerance in the biliary tree results in various cholangiopathies, exemplified by primary biliary cholangitis, primary sclerosing cholangitis and biliary atresia. Lessons learned from immune tolerance of the biliary tree will provide the basis for the development of effective therapeutic approaches against autoimmune biliary tract diseases. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Cholangiocytes in Health and Disease edited by Jesus Banales, Marco Marzioni, Nicholas LaRusso and Peter Jansen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease
StateAccepted/In press - 2017


  • Biliary atresia
  • Biliary tree
  • Cholangiocytes
  • Immune tolerance
  • Primary biliary cholangitis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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