The macrophage activation marker sCD163 is associated with morphological disease stages in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Macrophage activation plays a key pathogenic role in experimental non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and contributes to the progression of steatohepatitis (NASH) and fibrosis. We studied macrophage activation in human NAFLD by measuring soluble (s)CD163, a specific macrophage activation marker, hypothesizing that sCD163 would be associated with the patients' morphological disease grade. Further, we investigated an association between sCD163 and the apoptosis marker cytokeratin-18 (CK-18) to explore a link between macrophage activation and apoptosis.

METHODS: sCD163 associations with biochemical and histological measures of NAFLD were investigated in two independent cohorts of 157 Australian and 174 Italian NAFLD patients with liver biopsies graded for NAFLD severity, steatosis, and fibrosis. sCD163 and CK-18 were measured by ELISA.

RESULTS: In both cohorts sCD163 increased in parallel with the patients' morphological disease grading, being independently associated with the Kleiner fibrosis score (p<0.001). A high sCD163 predicted advanced fibrosis (F≥3; Australian cohort: AUROC 0.77 (95% CI: 0.76-0.87), Italian cohort: 0.80 (95% CI: 0.72-0.88)). In both groups, sCD163 was independently associated with CK-18 (p<0.001).

CONCLUSION: Soluble CD163 reflecting macrophage activation is associated with morphological features of NAFLD suggesting their involvement in the pathogenesis of NAFLD, NASH and particularly fibrosis. An independent association between sCD163 and cytokeratin-18 suggests that apoptosis may contribute to macrophage activation in NAFLD/NASH. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

TidsskriftLiver International
Sider (fra-til)1549-1557
StatusUdgivet - 2016

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