Cholesterol Metabolism Altered and FGF21 Levels High After Pediatric Liver Transplantation Despite Normal Serum Lipids


Silja Kosola,


Liver transplantation (LT) predisposes to metabolic derangements and increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. We conducted a national cross-sectional study of all pediatric recipients who underwent LT between 1987 and 2007. We measured serum levels of noncholesterol sterols (surrogate markers of cholesterol synthesis and intestinal absorption) and fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) in 49 patients (74% of survivors) at a median of 10 years posttransplant and in 93 controls matched for age and gender. Although serum cholesterol levels were similar in patients and controls, patients displayed increased whole-body synthesis and decreased intestinal absorption of cholesterol compared with controls (lathosterol to cholesterol ratio 129 ± 55 vs. 96 ± 41, respectively, p < 0.001; campesterol to cholesterol ratio 233 ± 91 vs. 316 ± 107, respectively; p < 0.001). Azathioprine (r =–0.383, p = 0.007) and low-dose methylpredisolone (r =–0.492, p < 0.001) were negatively associated with lathosterol/sitosterol ratio reflecting a favorable effect on cholesterol metabolism. FGF21 levels were higher in patients than in controls (248 pg/mL vs. 77 pg/mL, p < 0.001). In healthy controls, FGF21 was associated with cholesterol metabolism, an association missing in LT recipients. Normal serum lipids are achievable in long-term survivors of pediatric LT, but changes in cholesterol metabolism and increased FGF21 levels may explicate later cardiovascular risk.