Background:  Osteopontin (OPN) was shown to play an important role in the pathogenesis of various inflammatory and fibrotic processes and elevated in fibrotic liver of mouse model. However, the significance of OPN in hepatitis B virus (HBV)-induced liver cirrhosis (LC) remains unclear and is therefore evaluated in this study.

Methods:  Thirty-nine patients with HBV-induced LC, 30 patients with HBV infection but without cirrhosis, 11 patients with HBV-related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and 14 additional healthy controls were enrolled in this study. Plasma levels of OPN were measured with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and the relationship between OPN and clinical parameters was evaluated.

Results:  When compared to HBV infection group (median 2.16 ng/ml), plasma levels of OPN were significantly increased in cirrhosis (4.52 ng/ml, p < 0.001) and cancer group (13.38 ng/ml, p < 0.001). The OPN level was correlated with the severity of liver damage according to Child–Pugh classification (p = 0.003). It showed at least comparable sensitivity and specificity to predict cirrhosis as aspartate aminotransferase to platelet ratio index, a previously established non-invasive serum marker of cirrhosis.

Conclusions:  These data suggest that OPN could be used to evaluate the existence of LC, as OPN has previously been reported to be increased in the HCC; this unique feature makes OPN a promising candidate for prediction biomarker in the long-time surveillance of patients with HBV infection to evaluate the risk of cirrhosis and cancer.