Activated CD8 T-cell Hepatitis in Children With Indeterminate Acute Liver Failure: Results From a Multicenter Cohort

Pediatric Acute Liver Failure Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: In many pediatric acute liver failure (PALF) cases, a diagnosis is not identified, and the etiology is indeterminate (IND-PALF). Our pilot study found dense CD8 T-cell infiltrates and increased T-cell clonality in liver specimens from IND-PALF patients. We aimed to validate these findings in a multicenter cohort with investigators blinded to diagnosis. METHODS: PALF Study Group registry subjects with IND-PALF (n = 37) and known diagnoses (DX-PALF) (n = 18), ages 1 to 17 years, with archived liver tissue were included. Liver tissue slides were stained for T cells (CD8 and CD4), B cells (CD20), macrophages (CD163), perforin, and tissue resident-memory T cells (Trm, CD103), and scored as minimal, moderate, or dense. Lymphocytes were isolated from frozen liver tissue for T-cell receptor beta (TCRβ) sequencing. RESULTS: Dense hepatic CD8 staining was found in significantly more IND-PALF (n = 29, 78%) compared with DX-PALF subjects (n = 5, 28%) (P = 0.001). IND-PALF subjects were more likely to have dense or moderate perforin (88% vs 50%, P = 0.03) and CD103 (82% vs 40%, P = 0.02) staining compared with DX-PALF subjects. TCRβ sequencing of 15 IND-PALF cases demonstrated increased clonal overlap compared with 6 DX-PALF cases (P = 0.002). CONCLUSIONS: Dense infiltration of effector Trm CD8 T cells characterizes liver tissue from IND-PALF subjects. Increased clonality suggests the T-cell expansion is antigen(s)-driven as opposed to a nonspecific inflammatory response. These findings support CD8 staining as a new biomarker of the activated CD8 T-cell PALF phenotype. Future studies are needed to characterize potential antigens, host risk factors, and inflammatory pathways with the goal of developing targeted therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-719
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Gastroenterology


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