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The human ATP-binding cassette, subfamily B, member 11 (ABCB11) gene encodes the bile salt export pump, which is exclusively expressed at the canalicular membrane of hepatocytes. A frequent variant in the coding region, c.1331T>C, leading to the amino acid exchange p.V444A, has been associated with altered serum bile salt levels in healthy individuals and predisposes homozygous carriers of the [C] allele for obstetric cholestasis. Recently, elevated bile salt levels were shown to be significantly associated with rates and risk of cirrhosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection treated with pegylated interferon-α2 and ribavirin, suggesting a potential role for bile salt levels in HCV treatment outcomes and in the fibrogenic evolution of HCV-related liver disease. The aim of this study was to investigate a possible association of ABCB11 c.1331T>C with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and fibrosis stages as assessed by non-invasive transient elastography in a German cohort of patients.
ABCB11 c.1331T>C genotype was determined by allelic discrimination assay in 649 HCV infected cases and 413 controls. Overall, 444 cases were staged for fibrotic progression by measurement of liver stiffness.
Homo- or heterozygous presence of the frequent [C] allele was associated with HCV positivity (OR=1.41, CI=1.02 - 1.95, p=0.037). No association was detectable between the ABCB11 c.1331T>C genotype and increased liver stiffness.
Our data confirm that homozygous presence of the major [C] allele of ABCB11 c.1331T>C is a genetic susceptibility factor for HCV infection, but not for liver fibrosis.