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1.  Mutations in TJP2 cause progressive cholestatic liver disease 
Nature genetics  2014;46(4):326-328.
The elucidation of genetic causes of cholestasis has proved to be important in understanding the physiology and pathophysiology of the liver. Protein-truncating mutations in the tight junction protein 2 gene (TJP2) are shown to cause failure of protein localisation, with disruption of tight-junction structure leading to severe cholestatic liver disease. This contrasts with the embryonic-lethal knockout mouse, highlighting differences in redundancy in junctional complexes between organs and species.
PMCID: PMC4061468  PMID: 24614073
2.  A genetic study of Wilson’s disease in the United Kingdom 
Brain  2013;136(5):1476-1487.
Previous studies have failed to identify mutations in the Wilson’s disease gene ATP7B in a significant number of clinically diagnosed cases. This has led to concerns about genetic heterogeneity for this condition but also suggested the presence of unusual mutational mechanisms. We now present our findings in 181 patients from the United Kingdom with clinically and biochemically confirmed Wilson’s disease. A total of 116 different ATP7B mutations were detected, 32 of which are novel. The overall mutation detection frequency was 98%. The likelihood of mutations in genes other than ATP7B causing a Wilson’s disease phenotype is therefore very low. We report the first cases with Wilson’s disease due to segmental uniparental isodisomy as well as three patients with three ATP7B mutations and three families with Wilson’s disease in two consecutive generations. We determined the genetic prevalence of Wilson’s disease in the United Kingdom by sequencing the entire coding region and adjacent splice sites of ATP7B in 1000 control subjects. The frequency of all single nucleotide variants with in silico evidence of pathogenicity (Class 1 variant) was 0.056 or 0.040 if only those single nucleotide variants that had previously been reported as mutations in patients with Wilson’s disease were included in the analysis (Class 2 variant). The frequency of heterozygote, putative or definite disease-associated ATP7B mutations was therefore considerably higher than the previously reported occurrence of 1:90 (or 0.011) for heterozygote ATP7B mutation carriers in the general population (P < 2.2 × 10-16 for Class 1 variants or P < 5 × 10-11 for Class 2 variants only). Subsequent exclusion of four Class 2 variants without additional in silico evidence of pathogenicity led to a further reduction of the mutation frequency to 0.024. Using this most conservative approach, the calculated frequency of individuals predicted to carry two mutant pathogenic ATP7B alleles is 1:7026 and thus still considerably higher than the typically reported prevalence of Wilson’s disease of 1:30 000 (P = 0.00093). Our study provides strong evidence for monogenic inheritance of Wilson’s disease. It also has major implications for ATP7B analysis in clinical practice, namely the need to consider unusual genetic mechanisms such as uniparental disomy or the possible presence of three ATP7B mutations. The marked discrepancy between the genetic prevalence and the number of clinically diagnosed cases of Wilson’s disease may be due to both reduced penetrance of ATP7B mutations and failure to diagnose patients with this eminently treatable disorder.
PMCID: PMC3634195  PMID: 23518715
Wilson’s disease; ATP7B; genetic prevalence
3.  Primary Biliary Cirrhosis-Specific Antimitochondrial Antibodies in Neonatal Haemochromatosis 
Background and Aim. Neonatal hemochromatosis (NH) is characterised by severe liver injury and extrahepatic siderosis sparing the reticuloendothelial system. Its aetiology is obscure, although it has been proposed as an alloimmune disease, resulting from immunological reaction to self-antigens (alloantigens) which the body recognizes as foreign. We studied an infant with NH and his mother whose sera contained antimitochondrial antibody (AMA), the hallmark of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). Material and Methods. To investigate the origin of AMA in the infant, we studied isotype distributions in serum from the mother and infant. Serum samples were obtained at diagnosis of NH, after liver transplantation (LT; age 1 month), and over the ensuing 17 months. Results. At NH diagnosis, infant and maternal serum contained AMA of the IgG isotype, predominantly of the G3 and G1 subclasses. AMA strongly reacted against the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex E2 subunit (PDC-E2), the major PBC-specific AMA autoantigen. Anti-PDC-E2 responses in both infant and mother declined over time, being present 2 months after LT (mother and child) and absent 10 months later (mother) and 17 months later (child). Conclusion. The association of maternally transferred IgG1 and IgG3 subclass AMA with the appearance of liver damage in an infant with NH may suggest a causal link between antibody and liver damage.
PMCID: PMC3792542  PMID: 24171034
4.  Autoimmune Liver Disease: News and Perspectives 
Autoimmune liver disorders in childhood include autoimmune hepatitis and autoimmune sclerosing cholangitis. These inflammatory liver disorders are characterised histologically by interface hepatitis, biochemically by elevated transaminase levels and serologically by autoantibodies and increased levels of immunoglobulin G. Autoimmune hepatitis is particularly aggressive in children and progresses rapidly unless immunosuppressive treatment is started promptly. With appropriate treatment 80% of patients achieve remission and long-term survival. Autoimmune sclerosing cholangitis responds to the same treatment used for autoimmune hepatitis in regards to parenchymal inflammation, but bile duct disease progresses in about 50% of cases, leading to a worse prognosis and higher transplantation requirement; it has a high recurrence rate post liver transplant. New strategies aiming at treating unresponsive patients and at curbing specifically the liver autoimmune attack, without provoking unwanted systemic side effects, are being investigated and may be available within the next 5 years.
PMCID: PMC3728841  PMID: 23905033
autoimmune hepatitis; autoimmune sclerosing cholangitis; corticosteroids; azathioprine; calcineurin inhibitors; mycophenolate mofetil; ursodeoxycholic acid; regulatory T-cells
5.  Immune and Viral Profile from Tolerance to Hepatitis B Surface Antigen Clearance: a Longitudinal Study of Vertically Hepatitis B Virus-Infected Children on Combined Therapy ▿  
Journal of Virology  2010;85(5):2416-2428.
The aim of the study was to investigate longitudinally hepatitis B virus (HBV)-specific T-cell reactivity and viral behavior versus treatment response in tolerant children during combined antiviral therapy. Twenty-three children with infancy-acquired hepatitis B (HBeAg+) belonging to a published pilot study of 1-year treatment with lamivudine/alpha interferon (IFN-α) were investigated. Five seroconverted to anti-HBs (responders). Nine were HLA-A2+ (4 responders and 5 nonresponders). Mutations within the HBV core gene were determined at baseline in liver and in serial serum samples by direct sequencing at baseline; during treatment week 2 (TW2), TW9, TW28, and TW52; and after follow-up week 24 (FUW24) and FUW52. HBV-specific reactivity was evaluated by T-cell proliferation with 16 HBV core 20-mer overlapping peptides and by HLA-A2-restricted core18-27 pentamer staining and CD8+ IFN-γ enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assay. HBV core-specific T-cell proliferative and CD8 responses were more vigorous and broader among responders than among nonresponders at TW28 and TW52, while the number of mutations within HBV core gene immunodominant epitopes was lower at TW28 and was negatively associated with HBV-specific T-cell proliferative responses at both time points. The HBV DNA viral load was negatively associated with HBV-specific T-cell proliferative and CD8 responses during treatment, especially at TW28. Treatment-induced transition from immunotolerance to HBV immune control is characterized by the emergence of efficient virus-specific immune responses capable of restraining mutations and preventing viral evasion.
PMCID: PMC3067801  PMID: 21147914
6.  Differences in presentation and progression between severe FIC1 and BSEP deficiencies 
Journal of hepatology  2010;53(1):170-178.
Background & Aims
Progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC) with normal serum levels of gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase can result from mutations in ATP8B1 (encoding familial intrahepatic cholestasis 1 [FIC1]) or ABCB11 (encoding bile salt export pump [BSEP]). We evaluated clinical and laboratory features of disease in patients diagnosed with PFIC, who carried mutations in ATP8B1 (FIC1 deficiency) or ABCB11 (BSEP deficiency). Our goal was to identify features that distinguish presentation and course of these 2 disorders, thus facilitating diagnosis and elucidating the differing consequences of ATP8B1 and ABCB11 mutations.
A retrospective multi-center study was conducted, using questionnaires and chart review. Available clinical and biochemical data from 145 PFIC patients with mutations in either ATP8B1 (61 “FIC1 patients”) or ABCB11 (84 “BSEP patients”) were evaluated.
At presentation, serum aminotransferase and bile salt levels were higher in BSEP patients; serum alkaline phosphatase values were higher, and serum albumin values were lower, in FIC1 patients. Elevated white blood cell counts, and giant or multinucleate cells at liver biopsy, were more common in BSEP patients. BSEP patients more often had gallstones and portal hypertension. Diarrhea, pancreatic disease, rickets, pneumonia, abnormal sweat tests, hearing impairment, and poor growth were more common in FIC1 patients. Among BSEP patients, the course of disease was less rapidly progressive in patients bearing the D482G mutation.
Severe forms of FIC1 and BSEP deficiency differed. BSEP patients manifested more severe hepatobiliary disease, while FIC1 patients showed greater evidence of extrahepatic disease.
PMCID: PMC3042805  PMID: 20447715
cholestasis; genetics; transport protein; pediatrics; P-type ATPase; ATP binding cassette protein; ATP8B1; FIC1; ABCB11; BSEP
7.  Autoimmune paediatric liver disease 
Liver disorders with a likely autoimmune pathogenesis in childhood include autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), autoimmune sclerosing cholangitis (ASC), and de novo AIH after liver transplantation. AIH is divided into two subtypes according to seropositivity for smooth muscle and/or antinuclear antibody (SMA/ANA, type 1) or liver kidney microsomal antibody (LKM1, type 2). There is a female predominance in both. LKM1 positive patients tend to present more acutely, at a younger age, and commonly have partial IgA deficiency, while duration of symptoms before diagnosis, clinical signs, family history of autoimmunity, presence of associated autoimmune disorders, response to treatment, and long-term prognosis are similar in both groups. The most common type of paediatric sclerosing cholangitis is ASC. The clinical, biochemical, immunological, and histological presentation of ASC is often indistinguishable from that of AIH type 1. In both, there are high IgG, non-organ specific autoantibodies, and interface hepatitis. Diagnosis is made by cholangiography. Children with ASC respond to immunosuppression satisfactorily and similarly to AIH in respect to remission and relapse rates, times to normalization of biochemical parameters, and decreased inflammatory activity on follow up liver biopsies. However, the cholangiopathy can progress. There may be evolution from AIH to ASC over the years, despite treatment. De novo AIH after liver transplantation affects patients not transplanted for autoimmune disorders and is strikingly reminiscent of classical AIH, including elevated titres of serum antibodies, hypergammaglobulinaemia, and histological findings of interface hepatitis, bridging fibrosis, and collapse. Like classical AIH, it responds to treatment with prednisolone and azathioprine. De novo AIH post liver transplantation may derive from interference by calcineurin inhibitors with the intrathymic physiological mechanisms of T-cell maturation and selection. Whether this condition is a distinct entity or a form of atypical rejection in individuals susceptible to the development of autoimmune phenomena is unclear. Whatever its etiology, the recognition of this potentially life-threatening syndrome is important since its management differs from that of standard anti-rejection therapy.
PMCID: PMC2716590  PMID: 18528933
Autoimmune hepatitis; Autoimmune sclerosing cholangitis; Liver transplant; Children
8.  Aetiopathogenesis of autoimmune hepatitis 
The histological hallmark of autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is a dense portal mononuclear cell infiltrate that invades the surrounding parenchyma and comprises T and B lymphocytes, macrophages, and plasma cells. An unknown but powerful stimulus must be promoting the formation of this massive inflammatory cellular reaction that is likely to initiate and perpetuate liver damage. An autoimmune attack can follow different pathways to inflict damage on hepatocytes. Liver damage is likely to be orchestrated by CD4+ T lymphocytes recognizing an autoantigenic liver peptide. To trigger an autoimmune response, the peptide must be embraced by an HLA class II molecule and presented to naïve CD4+ T helper (Th0) cells by professional antigen presenting cells, with the co-stimulation of ligand-ligand fostering interaction between the two cells. Th0 cells become activated, differentiate into functional phenotypes according to the cytokines prevailing in the microenvironment and the nature of the antigen, and initiate a cascade of immune reactions determined by the cytokines produced by the activated T cells. Th1 cells, arising in the presence of the macrophage-derived interleukin (IL) -12, secrete mainly IL-2 and interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), which activate macrophages, enhance expression of HLA classI(increasing liver cell vulnerability to a CD8+ T cell cytotoxic attack), and induce expression of HLA class II molecules on hepatocytes. Th2 cells, which differentiate from Th0 if the microenvironment is rich in IL-4, produce mainly IL-4, IL-10, and IL-13 which favour autoantibody production by B lymphocytes. Physiologically, Th1 and Th2 antagonize each other. Th17 cells, a recently described population, arise in the presence of transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) and IL-6 and appear to have an important effector role in inflammation and autoimmunity. The process of autoantigen recognition is strictly controlled by regulatory mechanisms, such as those exerted by CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells, which derive from Th0 in the presence of TGF-β, but in the absence of IL-6. If regulatory mechanisms fail, the autoimmune attack is perpetuated. Over the past three decades different aspects of the above pathogenic scenario have been investigated. In particular, a defect in immunoregulation affecting CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells (T-regs) has been demonstrated in AIH, particularly at diagnosis or during relapse. Advances in the study of autoreactive T cells have occurred mostly in AIH type 2, since the knowledge that CYP2D6 is the main autoantigen has enabled the characterization of both CD4 and CD8 T cells targeting this cytochrome. CD4 T cells from patients with type 2 AIH positive for the predisposing HLA allele DRB1*0701 recognize seven regions of CYP2D6, five of which are also recognized by CD8 T cells. High numbers of IFN-γ producing CD4 T cells and CD8 T cells are associated with biochemical evidence of liver damage, suggesting a combined cellular immune attack.
PMCID: PMC2716585  PMID: 18528928
Autoimmune hepatitis; Aetiopathogenesis; Lymphocyte; Cellular immune attack; Histocompatibility lymphocyte antigen
9.  A Study of Molecular Mimicry and Immunological Cross-reactivity between Hepatitis B Surface Antigen and Myelin Mimics 
On the basis of the reported association between hepatitis B vaccination (HBvacc) and autoimmune demyelinating complications such as multiple sclerosis (MS), we have looked for aminoacid similarities between the small hepatitis B virus surface antigen (SHBsAg), and the MS-autoantigens myelin basic protein (MBP) and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) that could serve as targets of immunological cross-reactivity. Twenty-mer peptides spanning 4 SHBsAg/MOG and 1 SHBsAg/MBP mimicking pairs, were constructed and tested by ELISA as targets of cross-reactive responses. A total of 147 samples from 58 adults were collected before HBvacc (58/58), and post-HBvacc (48/58 before the second and 41/58 before the third boost). Eighty-seven sera from anti-SHBsAg antibody negative patients with various diseases were tested as pathological controls. Reactivity to at least one of the SHBsAg peptides was found in 8 (14%) pre-HBvacc subjects; amongst the remaining 50, reactivity to at least one of the SHBsAg peptides appeared in 47 (94%) post-HBvacc. Reactivity to at least one of the MOG mimics was present in 4 (8%) pre-HBvacc and in 30 (60%) post-HBvacc (p < 0.001). Overall 30/50 (60%) vaccinees had SHBsAg/MOG double reactivity on at least one occasion compared to none before-vaccination and in 2 (2%) of the pathological controls (p < 0.001 for both). SHBsAg/MOG double reactivity was cross-reactive as confirmed by inhibition studies. At 6 months post-vaccination, 3 of the 4 anti-MOG reactive cases before vaccination and 7 of the 24 (29%) of the anti-MOG reactive cases at 3 months post-vaccination had lost their reactivity to MOG5-24. There was no reactivity to the SHBsAg/MBP mimics. None of the vaccinees reported symptoms of demyelinating disorders. In view of the observed SHBsAg/MOG cross-reactivity, the vaccine's possible role as an immunomodulator of viral/self cross-reactivity must be further investigated.
PMCID: PMC2275415  PMID: 16295528
10.  Antibodies to soluble liver antigen and α-enolase in patients with autoimmune hepatitis 
Antibodies to a cytosolic soluble liver antigen (SLA) are specifically detected in patients with autoimmune hepatitis (AIH). The target of anti-SLA has been identified as a ~50 kDa UGA serine tRNA-associated protein complex (tRNP(Ser)Sec), through the screening of cDNA libraries. A recent report questioned the identity of tRNP(Ser)Sec as the real SLA antigen. The latter study identified α-enolase as a major anti-SLA target, through proteomic analysis.
In an attempt to explain the observed discrepancy we have investigated reactivity of SLA positive sera against α-enolase and tRNP(Ser)Sec using rat and primate liver homogenate and the recombinant antigens. Thirty-three serum samples, 11 from SLA-positive patients and 22 from SLA negative controls were investigated. SLA antibodies were detected by an inhibition ELISA and confirmed by immunoblot using human liver homogenate. Autoantibody reactivity was further evaluated using preparations of primate and rat liver homogenates. Anti-α-enolase antibody reactivity has been tested by immunoblot using recombinant α-enolase. An affinity purified goat polyclonal anti-α-enolase IgG antibody was used as reference serum sample. Anti-tRNP(Ser)Sec antibody reactivity was detected by ELISA or dot blot using recombinant tRNP(Ser)Sec antigen.
Results and Discussion
The affinity purified IgG antibody directed to human α-enolase gave a band of approximately 48 kDa in both human and rat liver homogenates. A high titre anti-tRNP(Ser)Sec antibody serum gave a single band of ~50 kDa in both liver preparations. All but one anti-SLA antibody positive sera reacted with a ~50 kDa but none immunofixed a 48 kDa band. All anti-SLA antibody positive sera reacted strongly with the recombinant full length tRNP(Ser)Sec protein. None of the anti-SLA negative sera reacted with tRNP(Ser)Sec. Anti-SLA positive, and anti-SLA negative sera reacted equally against recombinant α-enolase by immunoblot. Pre-incubation of anti-SLA positive sera with tRNP(Ser)Sec completely abolished the 50 kDa band. The findings of the present study indicate that α-enolase and tRNP(Ser)Sec are both expressed in primate and rat liver and have a respective MW of 48 and 50 kDa. They also show that anti-tRNP(Ser)Sec – but not anti-α-enolase – correlates with anti-SLA antibody reactivity.
Our findings indicate that tRNP(Ser)Sec is the most likely target of anti-SLA.
PMCID: PMC546408  PMID: 15679947
11.  A Dose Ranging Study of the Pharmacokinetics, Safety, and Preliminary Efficacy of Lamivudine in Children and Adolescents with Chronic Hepatitis B 
Fifty-three patients with chronic hepatitis B and active viral replication were studied for 4 weeks while on treatment and for 12 weeks after treatment with the oral nucleoside analogue lamivudine. Children aged 2 to 12 years were randomized to receive twice-daily doses of 0.35, 1.5, or 4 mg of lamivudine solution per kg of body weight or once-daily doses of 3 mg of lamivudine solution per kg. Adolescents aged 13 to 17 years received lamivudine at 100 mg (as tablets). Blood samples for pharmacokinetic assay were taken on days 1 and 28. Lamivudine was rapidly absorbed following oral administration, with the maximum concentration in serum being reached 0.5 to 1 h postdosing. Apparent oral clearance (CL/F) was higher in younger children and decreased with age, with CL/F values for adolescents reaching those seen for adults by the age of 12. All doses produced a dramatic fall in serum hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA levels, with a median reduction of ≥99.5% after 4 weeks of treatment and with the levels returning to the baseline levels posttreatment. The correlation of dose, area under the concentration-time curve (AUC), and changes in HBV DNA levels, as measured by the Chiron Quantiplex assay, showed maximal antiviral effects (99.9% inhibition and a reduction of the amount of HBV DNA of approximately 3 log10) at 3 mg/kg/day, with no discernible increase in effect seen whether the drug was given at 4 mg/kg twice daily or whether it was given once daily or twice daily. The limit of detection of the assay (2.5 pg/ml) was reached for some but not all patients across the dose ranges, with the smallest number (n = 2) of those having values negative by the Chiron Quantiplex assay being in the lowest-dose group. The 13- to 17-year-olds showed a similar overall response in terms of the HBV DNA level reduction compared to that for patients younger than age 13. Analysis of the same samples by PCR, which has a lower limit of sensitivity than the Chiron Quantiplex assay, also showed average drops in HBV DNA levels of about 3 log10 at 4 weeks for patients for which the AUC was ≥4,000 ng · h/ml, confirming the conclusions given above. Lamivudine treatment was well tolerated at all doses, with no significant adverse events or laboratory data changes. On the basis of pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data, a 3-mg/kg/day dose in children (ages 2 to 12 years) with chronic hepatitis B provides levels of exposure and trough concentrations similar to those seen in adults following the receipt of doses of 100 mg. The 100-mg dose is being evaluated in a large phase III study with HBV-infected pediatric patients.
PMCID: PMC89731  PMID: 10681323
13.  Oxidative metabolism of halothane in the production of altered hepatocyte membrane antigens in acute halothane-induced hepatic necrosis 
Gut  1981;22(8):669-672.
Previous investigations have shown that patients with fulminant hepatic failure after halothane anaesthesia have a circulating antibody which reacts with an antigen present on the surface of halothane-altered hepatocytes. In the present study, it has been shown that the expression of the antigen is associated with the oxidative metabolism of halothane, in contrast with results of other groups which have shown that the reductive route is involved in the direct hepatotoxic reaction attributed to halothane.
PMCID: PMC1420052  PMID: 7286784

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