Microbiota‐Driven Activation of Intrahepatic B Cells Aggravates NASH Through Innate and Adaptive Signaling

Fanta Barrow, Saad Khan, Gavin Fredrickson, Haiguang Wang, Katrina Dietsche, Preethy Parthiban, Sacha Robert, Thomas Kaiser, Shawn Winer, Adam Herman, Oyedele Adeyi, Marialena Mouzaki, Alexander Khoruts, Kristin A. Hogquist, Christopher Staley, Daniel A. Winer, Xavier S. Revelo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is rapidly becoming the leading cause of liver failure and indication for liver transplantation. Hepatic inflammation is a key feature of NASH but the immune pathways involved in this process are poorly understood. B lymphocytes are cells of the adaptive immune system that are critical regulators of immune responses. However, the role of B cells in the pathogenesis of NASH and the potential mechanisms leading to their activation in the liver are unclear.

APPROACH AND RESULTS: In this study, we report that NASH livers accumulate B cells with elevated pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion and antigen-presentation ability. Single-cell and bulk RNA sequencing of intrahepatic B cells from mice with NASH unveiled a transcriptional landscape that reflects their pro-inflammatory function. Accordingly, B cell-deficiency ameliorated NASH progression and adoptively transferring B cells from NASH livers recapitulates the disease. Mechanistically, B cell activation during NASH involves signaling through the innate adaptor myeloid differentiation primary response protein 88 (MyD88) as B cell-specific deletion of MyD88 reduced hepatic T cell-mediated inflammation and fibrosis, but not steatosis. In addition, activation of intrahepatic B cells implicates B cell receptor signaling, delineating a synergy between innate and adaptive mechanisms of antigen recognition. Furthermore, fecal microbiota transplantation of human NAFLD gut microbiotas into recipient mice promoted the progression of NASH by increasing the accumulation and activation of intrahepatic B cells, suggesting that gut microbial factors drive the pathogenic function of B cells during NASH.

CONCLUSION: Our findings reveal that a gut microbiota-driven activation of intrahepatic B cells leads to hepatic inflammation and fibrosis during the progression of NASH via innate and adaptive immune mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)704-722
Number of pages19
JournalHepatology (Baltimore, Md.)
Issue number2
Early online dateFeb 20 2021
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the staff from the Research Animal Resources, University Flow Cytometry Resource, Mass Cytometry Facility, Genomics Center, and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of Minnesota for their assistance. Particularly, we thank Juan Abrahante (Genomics Center) for his contribution to the RNA-seq analysis. We also thank Seokwon Jo for his assistance with mouse studies.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Hepatology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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