Biliary atresia (BA) is characterized by a progressive, sclerosing, inflammatory process that leads to cirrhosis in infancy. Although it is the most common indication for liver transplantation in early childhood, little is known about its etiopathogenesis. To elucidate factors involved in this process, we performed comprehensive genome-wide gene expression analysis using complementary DNA (cDNA) microarrays. We compared messenger RNA expression levels of approximately 18,000 human genes from normal, diseased control, and end-stage BA livers. Reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Northern blot analysis were performed to confirm changes in gene expression. Cluster and principal component analysis showed that all BA samples clustered together, forming a distinct group well separated from normal and diseased controls. We further identified 35 genes and ESTs whose expression differentiated BA from normal and diseased controls. Most of these genes are known to be associated with cell signaling, transcription regulation, hepatic development, morphogenesis, and fibrogenesis. In conclusion, this study serves to delineate processes that are involved in the pathogenesis of BA.
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