Primary biliary cirrhosis is an enigmatic autoimmune liver disease that predominantly affects women and is characterized by antimitochondrial antibodies and specific destruction of small bile ducts. Interestingly, patients with this disease not only have high titer antibodies to mitochondria, but also highly directed, liver-specific CD4 and CD8 cells directed at the same mitochondrial autoantigens. These mitochondrial autoantigens are all members of the 2-oxo dehydrogenase complex family and include the E2 component of pyruvate dehydrogenase as the major autoantigen. Moreover, the epitopes recognized by CD4, CD8 T cells and autoantibody, are all directed within the same region, namely the lipoyl domain of pyruvate dehydrogenase complex-E2. All cells in the body have mitochondria but there appear to be specific destruction of biliary cells. We believe that this specific destruction is secondary to a highly directed mucosal response that focuses on biliary cells because of the involvement of a polymeric immunoglobulin receptor, the presence of immunoglobulin A in mucosal secretions, and the unique apoptotic properties of biliary epithelium.
- 2-oxo-acid dehydrogenase complexes
- Antimitochondrial antibodies
- Biliary epithelial cells
- Primary biliary cirrhosis
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