Gut 49:565-576 doi:10.1136/gut.49.4.565
  • Liver disease

Identification of novel molecules and pathogenic pathways in primary biliary cirrhosis: cDNA array analysis of intrahepatic differential gene expression

  1. N A Shackel,
  2. P H McGuinness,
  3. C A Abbott,
  4. M D Gorrell,
  5. G W McCaughan
  1. AW Morrow Gastroenterology and Liver Centre, Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  1. Professor G McCaughan, Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology, Locked Bag No 6, Newtown, NSW, 2042, Australiag.mccaughan{at}
  • Accepted 26 February 2001


BACKGROUND Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is an autoimmune disease in which the pathogenesis of progressive liver injury is poorly understood.

AIM To provide novel insights into the pathogenesis of PBC related liver injury using cDNA array analysis, which simultaneously examines expression of many genes.

METHODS Utilising cDNA arrays of 874 genes, PBC was compared with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) associated cirrhosis and non-diseased liver. Differential expression of 10 genes was confirmed by real time quantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

RESULTS Array analysis identified many differentially expressed genes that are important in inflammation, fibrosis, proliferation, signalling, apoptosis, and oxidative stress. PBC was associated with increased expression of both Th1 and Th2 type molecules of the immune response. Fibrosis related gene expression featured upregulation of connective tissue growth factor and transforming growth factor beta3. Many more apoptosis associated molecules exhibited increased expression, consistent with apoptosis being a more active and regulated process, in PSC associated cirrhosis than in PBC. Increased expression of many genes of the Wnt and notch pathways implicated these highly conserved and linked pathways in PBC pathogenesis. The observed increases in expression of c-jun, c-myc, and c-fos related antigen 1 are consistent with increased Wnt pathway activity in PBC. Differential expression of four components of the Wnt pathway, Wnt-5a, Wnt-13, FRITZ, and beta-catenin, was confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR.

CONCLUSION Many genes implicated in intrahepatic inflammation, fibrosis, and regeneration were upregulated in PBC cirrhosis. In particular, increased expression of a number of Drosophila homologues was seen in PBC.