Altered hepatobiliary gene expressions in PFIC1: ATP8B1 gene defect is associated with CFTR downregulation

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Recent reports in patients with PFIC1 have indicated that a gene defect in ATP8B1 could cause deregulations in bile salt transporters through decreased expression and/or activity of FXR. This study aimed to: (1) define ATP8B1 expression in human hepatobiliary cell types, and (2) determine whether ATP8B1 defect affects gene expressions related to bile secretion in these cells. ATP8B1 expression was detected by RT-PCR in hepatocytes and cholangiocytes isolated from normal human liver and gallbladder. ATP8B1 mRNA levels were 20- and 200-fold higher in bile duct and gallbladder epithelial cells, respectively, than in hepatocytes. RT-PCR analyses of the liver from two patients with PFIC1, one with PFIC2, one with biliary atresia, showed that, compared to normal liver, hepatic expressions of FXR, SHP, CYP7A1, ASBT were decreased at least by 90% in all cholestatic disorders. In contrast, NTCP transcripts were less decreased (by ≤30% vs. 97%) in PFIC1 as compared with other cholestatic disorders, while BSEP transcripts, in agreement with BSEP immunohistochemical signals, were normal or less decreased (by 50% vs. 97%). CFTR hepatic expression was decreased (by 80%), exclusively in PFIC1, while bile duct mass was not reduced, as ascertained by cytokeratin-19 immunolabeling. In Mz-ChA-2 human biliary epithelial cells, a significant decrease in CFTR expression was associated with ATP8B1 invalidation by siRNA.In conclusion, cholangiocytes are a major site of ATP8B1 hepatobiliary expression. A defect of ATP8B1 along with CFTR downregulation can impair the contribution of these cells to bile secretion, and potentially explain the extrahepatic cystic fibrosis–like manifestations that occur in PFIC1. (Hepatology 2006;43:1125–1134.)

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