Increasing dimethylarginine levels are associated with adverse clinical outcome in severe alcoholic hepatitis


  • Potential conflict of interest: Dr. Vallance is an employee of ESK. Dr. Jalan received grants from Axcan Phalma and the Plasma Proteins Therapeutic Association (unrelated study).


Previous studies suggest reduced hepatic endothelial nitric oxide synthase activity contributes to increased intrahepatic resistance. Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), an endogenous nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, undergoes hepatic metabolism via dimethylarginine-dimethylamino-hydrolase, and is derived by the action of protein-arginine-methyltransferases. Our study assessed whether ADMA, and its stereo-isomer symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA), are increased in alcoholic hepatitis patients, and determined any relationship with severity of portal hypertension (hepatic venous pressure gradient measurement) and outcome. Fifty-two patients with decompensated alcoholic cirrhosis were studied, 27 with acute alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis, in whom hepatic venous pressure gradient was higher (P = 0.001) than cirrhosis alone, and correlated with ADMA measurement. Plasma ADMA and SDMA were significantly higher in alcoholic hepatitis patients and in nonsurvivors. Dimethylarginine-dimethylamino-hydrolase protein expression was reduced and protein-arginine-methyltransferase-1 increased in alcoholic hepatitis livers. ADMA, SDMA and their combined sum, which we termed a dimethylarginine score, were better predictors of outcome compared with Pugh score, MELD and Maddrey's discriminant-function. Conclusion: Alcoholic hepatitis patients have higher portal pressures associated with increased ADMA, which may result from both decreased breakdown (decreased hepatic dimethylarginine-dimethylamino-hydrolase) and/or increased production. Elevated dimethylarginines may serve as important biological markers of deleterious outcome in alcoholic hepatitis. (HEPATOLOGY 2007;45:62–71.)