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Abstract

Hepatocyte proliferative activity is elevated in cirrhotic patients who develop hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and decreased in alcohol-induced hepatitis patients with poor outcome. Hepatocyte proliferative activity has not been evaluated in an unselected population of cirrhotic patients regarding the severity of the disease. Forty-six cirrhotic patients (21 alcoholic, 20 viral, and 5 other) were prospectively analyzed by proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) immunostaining on methanol-fixed, paraffin-embedded liver biopsy specimens. In these conditions, the PCNA-labeling index (PCNA-LI) measures the number of cells in the S-phase and assesses tissue proliferation. The median value of the PCNA-LI for all samples was 4.3% (range, 0%-20.2%). It declined with worsening Child-Pugh score: 9.15% (range, 3.3%-20.2%), 5.3% (range, 1.2%-18%), and 2.4% (range, 0%-4.4%) in Child classes A, B, and C, respectively (P < .05). Using the best cutoff PCNA-LI value to divide cirrhosis into slowly and rapidly proliferating tissue subsets, the PCNA index was independently associated with serum albumin. The probability of survival in patients with a high PCNA-LI (> 4.4%) was significantly higher than in those with a lower PCNA-LI (0.93 vs. 0.53, at a median follow-up of 153 days; P = .01). In all 6 patients undergoing placement of a transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt (TIPS), the PCNA-LI decreased after the procedure. This early impairment of hepatocyte proliferative activity after TIPS placement might reflect the functional alterations induced by this treatment. In conclusion, hepatocyte proliferative activity assessed by PCNA-LI is increased in cirrhotic patients and decreases with worsening of the disease.