Combining Vγ9Vδ2 T cells with a lipophilic bisphosphonate efficiently kills activated hepatic stellate cells

Xiaoying Zhou, Yanzheng Gu, Hongying Xiao, Ning Kang, Yonghua Xie, Guangbo Zhang, Yan Shi, Xiaoyu Hu, Eric Oldfield, Xueguang Zhang, Yonghui Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Activated hepatic stellate cells (aHSCs) are now established as a central driver of fibrosis in human liver injury. In the presence of chronic or repeated injury, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) can occur, so there is interest in down-regulating aHSCs activity in order to treat these diseases. Here, we report that Vγ9Vδ2 T cells are reduced in patients with liver cirrhosis, stimulating us to investigate possible interactions between Vγ9Vδ2 T cells and aHSCs. We find that Vγ9Vδ2 T cells kill aHSCs and killing is enhanced when aHSCs are pretreated with BPH-1236, a lipophilic analog of the bone resorption drug zoledronate. Cytotoxicity is mediated by direct cell-to-cell contact as shown by Transwell experiments and atomic force microscopy, with BPH-1236 increasing the adhesion between aHSCs and Vγ9Vδ2 T cells. Mechanistically, BPH-1236 functions by inhibiting farnesyl diphosphate synthase, leading to accumulation of the phosphoantigen isopentenyl diphosphate and recognition by Vγ9Vδ2 T cells. The cytolytic process is largely dependent on the perforin/granzyme B pathway. In a Rag2-/-γc-/- immune-deficient mouse model, we find that Vγ9Vδ2 T cells home-in to the liver, and when accompanied by BPH-1236, kill not only orthotopic aHSCs but also orthotopic HCC tumors. Collectively, our results provide the first proof-of-concept of a novel immunotherapeutic strategy for the treatment of fibrosis-cirrhosis-HCC diseases using adoptively transferred Vγ9Vδ2 T cells, combined with a lipophilic bisphosphonate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1381
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - Oct 24 2017


  • Activated human hepatic stellate cells
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Lipophilic bisphosphonates
  • Liver fibrosis
  • Vγ9Vδ2 T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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