Reduced Hepatocellular Expression of Canalicular Transport Proteins in Infants with Neonatal Cholestasis and Congenital Hypopituitarism

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Abstract

Objective

To assess whether prolonged neonatal cholestasis, described in congenital hypopituitarism and septo-optic dysplasia (SOD), is associated with altered expression of selected canalicular ectoenzymes and canalicular transport proteins.

Study design

Children with congenital hypopituitarism (n = 21), SOD (n = 18), and cholestasis seen in our center over 26 years were reviewed. Histopathologic findings in archival liver biopsy specimens were assessed (n = 10) and in those with low/normal levels of serum γ-glutamyltransferase (GGT) activity despite conjugated hyperbilirubinemia, expression of canalicular ectoenzymes and canalicular transport proteins was evaluated immunohistochemically.

Results

Patients presented at a median age of 8 weeks (range 3-20 weeks) with median total bilirubin 116 μmol/L (45-287 μmol/L), GGT 95 IU/L (25-707 UI/L), and serum cortisol 51 nmol/L (17-240 nmol/L). All but 3 had low free thyroxin (median 9.6 pmol/L [6.8-26.9]) with increased thyroid-stimulating hormone levels (median 5.95 mU/L [<0.1-9.24]). Liver histologic features included moderate-to-severe intralobular cholestasis with nonspecific hepatitis, giant-cell transformation of hepatocytes, and fibrosis. In all, immunohistochemical staining for canalicular ectoenzymes and canalicular transport proteins revealed a degree of reduced expression, associated with normal serum GGT values in 6 of the 10 patients, and another 6 nonbiopsied infants with cholestasis also had low/normal serum GGT activity. Sequencing of ABCB11 and ATP8B1 performed in 6 of the biopsied patients did not identify pathogenic mutations. Following replacement therapy, biochemical evidence of hepatobiliary injury resolved in all children within a median period of 6 months.

Conclusion

Hepatobiliary involvement in congenital hypopituitarism associated with SOD has a good prognosis, but its etiology remains uncertain. Immunohistochemical expression of canalicular transport proteins was reduced in available liver samples.

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