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Abstract

Genetic modifiers contribute to phenotypic variability in patients with sickle cell anemia (SCA). The influence of the bilirubin UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) 1A1 (TA)nTAA promoter polymorphism on bilirubin levels and gallbladder disease in SCA was examined using prospectively collected data from the Cooperative Study of Sickle Cell Disease. A total of 324 children with HbSS (median age 6.9 years) had UGT1A1 genotyping; 243 (75%) had common (TA)6 or (TA)7 alleles, whereas 81 (25.0%) had variant (TA)5 or (TA)8 alleles. The UGT1A1 genotype significantly influenced average bilirubin levels for the common alleles: 6/6 genotype = 2.36 ± 1.13 mg/dL, 6/7 genotype = 2.90 ± 1.54 mg/dL, and 7/7 genotype = 4.24 ± 2.11 mg/dL (P < 0.0001). Thirty-nine percent of children with the 7/7 genotype had documented gallbladder disease, compared with 18.2% with the 6/7 genotype and only 9.9% with the wildtype 6/6 UGT1A1 genotype (P = 0.001). To analyze the (TA)5 and (TA)8 variant alleles, three groups were generated, showing increasing bilirubin levels with increasing TA repeats and age. Group 3 (genotypes 6/8, 7/7, and 7/8) had a significantly greater rate of bilirubin change than Groups 1 (genotypes 5/6, 5/7, and 6/6) or 2 (genotype 6/7). These results validate previous smaller studies and confirm that the UGT1A1 promoter polymorphism exerts a powerful influence on bilirubin levels and the development of gallbladder disease in children with SCA. UGT1A1 genotyping should be considered as a screening tool for predicting children most likely to develop gallbladder disease at a young age. Am. J. Hematol., 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.