Background & Aims: Noninvasive methods are needed to identify pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the most frequent chronic liver disease in children and adolescents in industrialized countries. Retinol-binding protein 4 (RBP4) is an adipocytokine that has been associated with the pathogenesis of insulin resistance. We tested the serum levels of RBP4 to assess their associations with the metabolic profile and histologic features in a large well-characterized group of children with NAFLD. Methods: The study included 59 children with biopsy-proven NAFLD. Histologic analyses were performed by an experienced hepatopathologist; the NAFLD activity score and fibrosis score were calculated for each patient. RBP4 levels in serum samples were measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay analysis. Anthropometric, blood pressure, and metabolic profile analyses (including glucose tolerance, fasting glucose, insulin, and lipid panel tests) were performed on samples from all patients. Results: Decreasing levels of RBP4 were associated significantly with increasing levels of serum triglyceride. High levels of RBP4 were associated significantly with low necroinflammatory activity, a low NAFLD activity score, and a low fibrosis score. Furthermore, serum RBP4 levels decreased significantly as disease severity increased; there was a stepwise decrease in RBP4 from children with steatosis (3.8 mg/dL) to borderline nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (2.9 mg/dL) to definitive nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (1.9 mg/dL) (P <.0001). This association remained significant after adjusting for other relevant clinical variables. Conclusions: Our study shows an inverse relationship between RBP4 levels and degree of liver damage. RBP4 therefore might be a potential novel noninvasive marker of severity of pediatric NAFLD.
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