Peripheral blood and hepatic tissue T- and B-lymphocyte distributions, serum alpha fetoprotein (AFP) concentrations, and hepatic AFP were studied in 46 patients undergoing diagnostic percutaneous liver biopsy. The patients included 26 with alcoholic liver disease, 13 with nonalcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis, and 7 with either normal histology or minor nonspecific changes. Serum AFP was determined by radioimmunoassay and hepatic tissue AFP by indirect immunofluorescence. Peripheral blood T lymphocytes were identified by the sheep red-cell rosette technique; and B lymphocytes by fluoresceinated anti-immunoglobulin antisera and IgG aggregates. Tissue identification of T lymphocytes was accomplished using an extensively absorbed rabbit antihuman thymocyte antiserum and indirect immunofluorescence; tissue B lymphocytes were identified using pepsin F (ab')2 fragments of rabbit IgG antibodies to human immunoglobulins. T lymphocytes predominanted in hepatic lymphoid infiltrates from patients with alcoholic liver disease (91+/-4%), whereas in patients with chronic active or chronic persistant hepatitis, viral hepatitis, or cryoptogenic cirrhosis proportions of T and B lymphocytic infiltrates were similar (50+/-15%). Hepatic tissue AFP was detected in 9 of 18 patients with alcoholic hepatitis; serum AFP concentration was increased in only 1 of these 9 patients. Tissue AFP was not observed in the remaining biopsy material nor were serum AFP concentrations increased. Peripheral blood T-cell numbers were significantly decreased in patients with alcoholic liver disease (P less than 0.01) and in nonalcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis (P less than 0.025). A close relationship between peripheral blood T-lymphocytopenia and hepatic T-cell infiltrates was observed in patients with alcoholic liver disease; this relationship was less apparent in patients with nonalcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis.
G Husby, R G Strickland, J L Caldwell, R C Williams Jr