Frontiers of Medicine

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 249–261 | Cite as

NKT cells in liver diseases

  • Shasha Zhu
  • Huimin Zhang
  • Li Bai


Natural killer T cells are innate-like and tissue-resident lymphocytes, which recognize lipid antigens and are enriched in the liver. Natural killer T cells play important roles in infections, tumors, autoimmune diseases, and metabolic diseases. In this study, we summarize recent findings on biology of natural killer T cells and their roles in hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infection, autoimmune liver diseases, alcoholic liver disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Controversial results from previous studies are discussed, and indicate the dynamic alteration in the role of natural killer T cells during the progression of liver diseases, which might be caused by changes in natural killer T subsets, factors skewing cytokine responses, and intercellular crosstalk between natural killer T cells and CD1d-expressing cells or bystander cells.


natural killer T cells hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infection autoimmune liver diseases alcoholic liver disease nonalcoholic fatty liver disease hepatocellular carcinoma 


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Work in the authors’ laboratory was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 91542203, 31470859, and 81771671), National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2017YFA0505300), the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. XDA12030208), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CAS Key Laboratory of Innate Immunity and Chronic Disease, CAS Center for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science, School of Life Sciences and Medical CenterUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina
  2. 2.Innovation Center for Cell Signaling NetworkHefei National Laboratory for Physical Sciences at MicroscaleHefeiChina

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