Cultured with a liver-derived lipoprotein complex, T lymphocytes from 42 of 45 patients with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis generated migration inhibitory factor compared with 16 of 33 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis. Unlike T lymphocytes from patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, the T-cell reactivity of patients with chronic active hepatitis was always suppressed by T cells from normal subjects and, with two exceptions, by T cells from patients with primary biliary cirrhosis, even when these latter cells exhibited sensitization to this same antigen complex. Using a component of the whole complex, the asialoglycoprotein receptor as antigen, migration inhibitory factor was invariably released by T cells from patients with autoimmune chronic active hepatitis, but from only 2 of 8 patients with primary biliary cirrhosis sensitized to the whole complex. Thus, in autoimmune chronic active hepatitis, but not in primary biliary cirrhosis, the asialoglycoprotein receptor is invariably a target for cellular immune reactions and is associated with a suppressor T-cell defect for hepatocyte antigens.
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