Reduced monocyte HLA-DR expression: A novel biomarker of disease severity and outcome in acetaminophen-induced acute liver failure


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Acute liver failure (ALF) shares striking similarities with septic shock where a decrease in HLA-DR expression on monocytes is associated with disease severity and predicts outcome. We investigated monocyte HLA-DR expression in ALF in relation to inflammatory mediator levels and clinical outcome. Monocyte HLA-DR expression was determined in 50 patients with acetaminophen-induced ALF (AALF) and 20 non–acetaminophen-induced ALF (NAALF). AALF patients were divided into dead/transplanted (AALF-NS, n = 26) and spontaneous survivors (AALF-S, n = 24). Fifty patients with chronic liver disease (CLD) and 50 healthy volunteers served as controls. Monocyte HLA-DR expression was determined by double-color flow-cytometry with monoclonal antibodies detecting HLA-DR and monocyte specific CD14. Serum levels of interleukin (IL) -4, -6, -10, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interferon (IFN)-γ were concomitantly measured by ELISA. Compared to healthy volunteers (75%) and CLD (67%) monocyte HLA-DR percentage expression was lower in AALF (15%, P < .001) and NAALF (22 %, P < .001). Compared to AALF-S, AALF-NS had lower monocyte HLA-DR % (11% vs. 36%, P < .001) and higher levels of IL-4, IL-6, IL-10 and TNF-α (P < .001). HLA-DR percentage negatively correlated with INR, blood lactate, pH and levels of encephalopathy (r = −0.8 to −0.5, P < .01), IL-10 (r = −0.8, P < .0001), TNF-α (r = −0.4, P = .02). HLA-DR percentage level ≤15% has a 96% sensitivity and 100% specificity and 98% accuracy in predicting poor prognosis. In conclusion, the strong relationship of monocyte HLA-DR expression with indices of disease severity, mediators of inflammation and outcome indicates a key role for this molecule as a biomarker of disease severity and prognosis. (HEPATOLOGY 2006;44:34–43.)