Molecular Ellipticity of Circulating Albumin-Bilirubin Complex Associates With Mortality in Patients With Severe Alcoholic Hepatitis

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Abstract

BACKGROUND & AIMS

Hyperbilirubinemia and hypoalbuminemia are features of hepatic dysfunction that associate with disease severity. This is because hepatic insufficiency causes hypoalbuminemia, which indirectly increases the circulating levels of free bilirubin. Circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy can be used to quantify the molecular ellipticity (ME) of the albumin–bilirubin complex, and might associate with the severity or outcome of severe alcoholic hepatitis (SAH).

METHODS

We performed a cross-sectional study of 265 patients with SAH admitted in the Department of Hepatology, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in New Delhi, India from January 2014 through January 2016. Blood samples were collected and patients were followed for 12 months or death. The molar ratios of bilirubin: albumin and albumin–bilirubin complexes were determined for a discovery cohort (30 patients who survived the study period and 60 patients who did not survive) and compared with those of 60 patients with alcoholic cirrhosis and 30 healthy individuals (controls). Optical activities of albumin–bilirubin complexes in blood samples were determined by CD spectroscopy and compared among groups. Findings were validated in a separate cohort of 150 patients with SAH from the same institute. We studied the correlation between ME and albumin binding capacity (ABiC).

RESULTS

The molar ratio of bilirubin: albumin was higher in patients with SAH than with alcoholic cirrhosis or controls (P< .05). Patients with SAH had different CD spectra and higher ME than the other groups (P< .01); ME correlated with model for end-stage liver disease score (with and without Na) and discriminant function (r2 > .3;P< .01). ME values above a cut off of 1.84 mdeg predicted 3-month mortality in patients with SAH with an area under receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.87 (95% CI, 0.79–0.95), a 77% positive predictive value, and a 90% negative predictive value. The hazard ratio and concordance index of ME values for 3-month mortality in patients with SAH was 10% higher than the hazard ratio and concordance index of model for end-stage liver disease score. In patients with SAH, there was an inverse correlation between ME and ABiC (r2 > 0.7;P< .01). We observed a significant reduction in ABiC with increasing levels of bilirubin in vitro prepared albumin–bilirubin complex.

CONCLUSION

In a cross-sectional study of patients with SAH, we associated ME of the albumin–bilirubin complex, measured by CD spectroscopy, with outcomes of patients with SAH. Increased loading of bilirubin on albumin could explain reduced albumin function. Bilirubin removal by albumin dialysis might benefit patients with SAH.

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