• complement;
  • C3;
  • liver;
  • primary biliary cirrhosis;
  • primary sclerosing cholangitis;
  • S-protein;
  • terminal complement complex;
  • vitronectin

ABSTRACT— Characteristics of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) are bile duct destruction and portal inflammation. Increased levels of circulating complement activation products are also present. This raises the possibility of involvement of complement-dependent cytotoxic mechanisms in the pathogenesis. Therefore, we investigated liver biopsy specimens from 21 patients with PBC, six patients with PSC and six controls for complement deposits by immunohistochemistry using polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies against C3d, the terminal complement complex (TCC) and vitronectin (S-protein). We found C3d, TCC and vitronectin deposits only in the portal tracts. C3d and TCC were present in the walls of the hepatic arteries and in the connective tissue stroma but never around the bile ducts. We found vitronectin deposits throughout the connective tissue, often independent of the TCC deposits. When vitronectin and TCC were co-localized, the staining patterns were inverse; that is, intense staining for TCC accompanied weak staining for vitronectin and vice versa. Occasionally complete dissociation between TCC and vitronectin staining was observed. Deposits of TCC and vitronectin showed a focal distribution leaving many portal tracts free of TCC. Our results question whether complement-dependent cytotoxic mechanisms take part in the bile duct destruction in PBC and PSC.