More than twenty years ago, non–HBV-specific CD8+ T cells were found to contribute to liver immunopathology in chronic HBV infection, while HBV-specific CD8+ T cells were noted to contribute to viral control. The role of HBV-specific CD8+ T cells in viral control and the mechanisms of their failure in persistent infection have been intensively studied during the last two decades, but the exact nature of nonspecific bystander CD8+ T cells that contribute to immunopathology has remained elusive. In this issue of the JCI, Nkongolo et al. report on their application of two methodological advances, liver sampling by fine-needle aspiration (FNA) and single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-Seq), to define a liver-resident CD8+ T cell population that was not virus specific but associated with liver damage, thus representing hepatotoxic bystander CD8+ T cells.
Hendrik Luxenburger, Christoph Neumann-Haefelin