ABCB4 mutations in adult patients with cholestatic liver disease: impact and phenotypic expression

Dario Degiorgio, Andrea Crosignani, Carla Colombo, Domenico Bordo, Massimo Zuin, Emanuela Vassallo, Marie Louise Syrén, Domenico A. Coviello, Pier Maria Battezzati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The ABCB4 gene encodes the MDR3 protein. Mutations of this gene cause progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis type 3 (PFIC3) in children, but their clinical relevance in adults remains ill defined. The study of a well-characterized adult patient series may contribute to refining the genetic data regarding cholangiopathies of unknown origin. Our aim was to evaluate the impact of ABCB4 mutations on clinical expression of cholestasis in adult patients. Methods: We consecutively evaluated 2602 subjects with hepatobiliary disease. Biochemical evidence of a chronic cholestatic profile (CCP) with elevated serum gamma-glutamyltransferase activity or diagnosis of intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) and juvenile cholelithiasis (JC) were inclusion criteria. The personal/family history of additional cholestatic liver disease (PFH-CLD), which includes ICP, JC, or hormone-induced cholestasis, was investigated. Mutation screening of ABCB4 was carried out in 90 patients with idiopathic chronic cholestasis (ICC), primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), ICP, and JC. Results: Eighty patients had CCP. PSC and ICC patients with PFH-CLD had earlier onset of disease than those without it (p = 0.003 and p = 0.023, respectively). The mutation frequency ranged from 50 % (ICP, JC) to 17.6 % (PBC). Among CCP patients, presence or absence of PFH-CLD was associated with ABCB4 mutations in 26.8 vs 5.1 % (p = 0.013), respectively; in the subset of ICC and PSC patients, the corresponding figures were 44.4 vs 0 % (p = 0.012) and 28.6 vs 8.7 % (p = 0.173). Conclusions: Cholangiopathies attributable to highly penetrant ABCB4 mutant alleles are identifiable in a substantial proportion of adults that generally have PFH-CLD. In PSC and ICC phenotypes, patients with MDR3 deficiency have early onset of disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-280
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Gastroenterology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2016


  • ABCB4
  • Cholangiocarcinoma
  • Idiopathic chronic cholestasis
  • MDR3 protein
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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