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Abstract

Hemolysis in patients with advanced alcoholic liver disease is a common clinical problem and indicates an unfavorable prognosis. In many cases, the etiology of the hemolysis remains unknown. We observed three patients with alcoholic liver disease, suffering from severe hemolytic anemia, requiring multiple blood transfusions. Steroid therapy was ineffective and two of the patients died. All patients had a soluble variant of the human asialoglycoprotein receptor (s-ASGP-R) in their serum, as well as high titers of autoantibodies against this receptor (anti-ASGP-R). Consecutively, examination of 60 patients with alcoholic liver disease revealed a high incidence for s-ASGP-R (36%) and anti-ASGP-R (27%) in patients with alcoholic liver cirrhosis (ALC) compared to patients with cirrhosis due to viral hepatitis. The potential etiology of hemolysis was studied in vitro on erythrocytes from patients with ALC and from healthy donors. Isolated ASGP-R but not anti-ASGP-R bound to the surface of erythrocytes preferentially of blood group A1 and caused dose-dependent agglutination and hemolysis, while this phenomenon was much lower using erythrocytes of the blood group B and almost absent with blood group O-erythrocytes. Furthermore, agglutination and hemolysis only occurred in erythrocytes from ALC-patients or after the pre-treatment of cells with neuraminidase. ASGP-R induced agglutination and hemolysis was blocked by the competitive ASGP-R inhibitor asialofetuin. In conclusion, our results indicate a new, non-immunological mechanism for hemolysis in patients with alcoholic liver disease, mediated through agglutination by a soluble variant of the human asialoglycoprotein receptor and mechanical shear stress. (HEPATOLOGY 2004;39:1398–1407.)