• MAIT cells are enriched and highly functional in ascites of patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis.

      Niehaus, Christian E; Strunz, Benedikt; Cornillet, Martin; Falk, Christine S; Schnieders, Ansgar; Maasoumy, Benjamin; Hardtke, Svenja; Manns, Michael P; Rm Kraft, Anke; Björkström, Niklas K; et al. (Wiley Online Open, 2020-02-03)
      Patients with advanced liver cirrhosis have an increased susceptibility to infections. As part of the cirrhosis-associated immune dysfunction, mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, that have the capacity to respond towards bacteria, are severely diminished in circulation and liver tissue. However, MAIT cell presence and function in the peritoneal cavity, a common anatomical site for infections in cirrhosis, remain elusive. To study this, matched peripheral blood and ascites fluid were collected from 35 patients with decompensated cirrhosis, with or without spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (SBP). MAIT cell phenotype and function were analyzed using high-dimensional flow cytometry and obtained data was compared to blood samples of healthy controls (n=24) and patients with compensated cirrhosis (n=11). We found circulating MAIT cells to be severely decreased in cirrhotic patients as compared to controls. In contrast, in ascites fluid, MAIT cells were significantly increased together with CD14+ CD16+ monocytes, ILCs, and NK cells. This was paralleled by elevated levels of several pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in ascites fluid as compared to plasma. Peritoneal MAIT cells displayed an activated tissue-resident phenotype and this was corroborated by increased functional responses following stimulation with E. coli or lL-12 + IL-18 as compared to circulating MAIT cells. During SBP, peritoneal MAIT cell frequencies increased most among all major immune cell subsets, suggestive of active homing of MAIT cells to the site of infection. CONCLUSIONS: Despite severely diminished MAIT cell numbers and impaired phenotype in circulation, peritoneal MAIT cells remain abundant, activated, and highly functional in decompensated cirrhosis and are further enriched in SBP. This suggests that peritoneal MAIT cells could be of interest for immune intervention strategies in patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis and SBP.