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Pathology and immunopathology of immunoglobulin G4-related sclerosing cholangitis: The latest addition to the sclerosing cholangitis family


Professor Yasuni Nakanuma, Department of Human Pathology, Kanazawa University Graduate School of Medicine, Kanazawa 920-8640, Japan. Email:


Sclerosing cholangitis is heterogeneous in its etiopathogenesis. Recently, sclerosing cholangitis showing abundant immunoglobulin (Ig)G4+ plasma cell infiltration was added to the sclerosing cholangitis group. This form was frequently associated with sclerosing pancreatitis (autoimmune pancreatitis) and also occasionally with other diseases such as chronic sclerosing sialadenitis, all of which falls within IgG4-related sclerosing disease. Herein, this new member, called IgG4-related sclerosing cholangitis (IgG4-SC), is reviewed. IgG4-SC shows grossly medullary and fleshy lesions along the biliary tree, and histologically marked lymphoplasmacytic infiltration with extensive fibrosis, and obliterative phlebitis, sharing histopathological features with sclerosing pancreatitis. Peribiliary glands are also severely affected. Interestingly, hepatic inflammatory pseudotumor (HIP) is not infrequently associated with IgG4-SC, and is thought as a local exaggeration of IgG4-SC. Immunohistochemically, many IgG4+ plasma cells and CD4+/CD25+ regulatory T cells are found around the affected bile ducts and portal tracts. Incontrast, these cells are scarce in the affected bile ducts of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a prototype of sclerosing cholangitis. Biliary lining epithelia are relatively spared in IgG4-SC in comparison with those of PSC showing degeneration and ulceration. In some cases of IgG4-SC, IgG4+ plasma cells are also found considerably in small portal tracts, so needle liver biopsy is useful for the diagnosis of IgG4-SC. Therapeutically, IgG4-SC responds well to steroid therapy, while such character is not reported in PSC. Taken together, IgG4-SC may be etiologically different from PSC, and immunopathological processes relating to IgG4 and regulatory T cells may be involved in the pathogenesis of IgG4-SC. Further studies are needed to clarify the etiopathogenesis of IgG4-SC and its related disorders.