• connective tissue growth factor;
  • CTGF;
  • hepatitis C;
  • liver fibrosis;
  • noninvasive biomarker;
  • promoter polymorphisms

Summary.  Clinical and experimental studies have demonstrated that connective-tissue growth factor (CTGF) expression is increased in fibrotic human liver and experimental animal models of liver fibrogenesis. CTGF has been linked to transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) pathways in fibroproliferative diseases and specific polymorphisms within the CTGF gene may predispose for fibrosis in systemic sclerosis. As CTGF is detectable in various human fluids (serum, plasma and urine), it may provide information about fibrotic remodelling processes and reflect hepatic TGF-β bioactivity. We established a novel ELISA for the measurement of serum CTGF and tested its clinical value in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and chronic liver disease (CLD). HCV infected patients (= 138) had significantly higher serum CTGF levels than healthy controls. CTGF was linked to the histological degree of liver fibrosis. To expand the results to other aetiologies, a separate cohort of CLD patients (= 129) was evaluated, showing higher serum CTGF than healthy controls and again an association with advanced stages of liver cirrhosis (Child B and C). Although independent of the underlying aetiology, serum CTGF was most powerful in indicating fibrosis/advanced disease states in HCV-related disorders. The genotyping of six polymorphisms (rs6917644, rs9399005, rs6918698, rs9493150, rs2151532 and rs11966728) covering the CTGF locus in 365 patients suffering from chronic hepatitis C revealed that none of these polymorphisms showed a genotypic or allelic association with the severity of hepatic fibrosis. Taken together, serum CTGF is suitable for determination of hepatic fibrosis and most powerful in patients with chronic HCV infection.