In homeostasis, the liver is critical for the metabolism of nutrients including sugars, lipids, proteins and iron, for the clearance of toxins, and to induce immune tolerance to gut-derived antigens. These functions predispose the liver to infection by blood-borne pathogens, and to a variety of diseases ranging from toxin and medication-induced disorders (CCl4, acetaminophen) to metabolic disorders (steatohepatitis, alcoholic liver disease, biliary obstruction, cholestasis) or autoimmunity. Chronic liver injury often progresses to life threatening fibrosis and can end in liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (Pellicoro et al., 2014).
The liver contains parenchymal cells or hepatocytes that make up the majority of hepatic cells. It also contains non-parenchymal structural cells such as sinusoidal endothelial cells and a large number of non-parenchymal innate immune cells, mainly monocytes, neutrophils, macrophages, DCs, NK and NKT cells that can trigger an adaptive immune response in the case of infections or other pathogenic insults (Jenne and Kubes, 2013). How this immune response is regulated determines the extent of acute and chronic liver injury (Stijlemans et al., 2014). In this context, liver macrophages have been demonstrated to play central but divergent (from initiating to resolving) functions in liver injury (Sica et al., 2014). It has become clear in the last years that hepatic macrophages consist of two classes, tissue-resident macrophages, the Kupffer cells (KCs) originating from yolk sac/fetal liver progenitors and tissue-infiltrating macrophages originating from bone marrow-derived Ly6CHi monocytes (Jinhoux and Jung, 2014; Tacke and Zimmerman, 2014). Distinguishing the activities of KCs from those of monocyte-derived macrophages during liver injury or repair is currently a frontline research topic in the macrophage field. Indeed, considering that clinical management of liver failure remains problematic, a better understanding of the immune mechanisms regulating liver injury is expected to allow the development of new therapeutic modalities. Here, we describe an isolation technique for liver non-parenchymal polymorphonuclear (PMN) and mononuclear myeloid cells permitting their molecular and functional characterization.
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