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Abstract

Alcoholic hepatitis (AH) is a severe condition developed in patients with underlying alcoholic liver disease. Ductular reaction has been associated with chronic alcohol consumption but there is no information regarding the extent of liver progenitor cell (LPC) proliferation in AH. The aim of this study was to investigate LPC markers in AH and its correlation with disease severity. Fifty-nine patients with clinical and histological diagnosis of AH were included in the study. LPC markers were assessed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and immunohistochemistry. Standard logistic regression analysis and classification and regression trees (CART) analysis were used for statistical analysis. A microarray analysis showed an up-regulation of LPC markers in patients with AH. Real-time PCR demonstrated that epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM), Prominin-1, and Keratin7 were significantly increased in patients with AH compared with normal livers (P ≤ 0.01), chronic hepatitis C (P ≤ 0.01), and HCV-induced cirrhosis (P ≤ 0.01). Immunohistochemistry scores generated for Keratin7 and EpCAM demonstrated a good correlation with gene expression. Keratin7 gene expression correlated with liver failure as assessed by model for endstage liver disease score (r = 0.41, P = 0.006) and Maddrey's discriminant function (r = 0.43, P = 0.004). Moreover, Keratin7 (OR1.14, P = 0.004) and Prominin-1 (OR1.14, P = 0.002), but not EpCAM (OR1.16, P = 0.06), were identified as independent predictors of 90-day mortality. CART analysis generated an algorithm based on the combination of Keratin7 and EpCAM gene expression that stratified three groups of patients with high, intermediate, and low short-term mortality (89%, 33%, and 6%, respectively; area under the receiver operating curve 0.73, 95% confidence interval 0.60-0.87). Keratin7 expression provided additional discrimination potential to the age, bilirubin, international normalization ratio, creatinine (ABIC) score. Conclusion: LPC markers correlate positively with severity of liver disease and short-term mortality in AH patients. This study suggests that LPC proliferation may be an important feature of AH pathophysiology. (HEPATOLOGY 2012;55:1931–1941)