Background & aims: The mechanism for abnormal hepatic bile acid transport was investigated in an 18-month-old Amish boy who presented with pruritus, poor growth, and severe bleeding episodes. Serum bilirubin, gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase, and cholesterol levels were normal, but prothrombin time and partial thromboplastin time were prolonged and bone alkaline phosphatase level was elevated.
Methods and results: Cholic acid plus chenodeoxycholic acid levels measured by capillary gas-chromatography were 32 times higher than control in serum (34.7 vs. 1.1+/-0.4 microg/dL) but were not detected in liver and were reduced in gallbladder bile. Treatment with ursodiol, a more hydrophilic bile acid, improved pruritus, produced 37% weight gain, and after 2 years reduced serum primary bile acid concentrations about 85%, while accounting for 71% of serum and 24% of biliary bile acid conjugates. On ursodiol therapy, hepatic bile acid synthesis was enhanced 2-fold compared with controls, and microscopy revealed chronic hepatitis without cholestasis. Three younger sisters with elevated serum bile acids responded positively to ursodiol. Microsatellite markers for the FIC1 (gene for Byler's disease) region in these 4 children were inconsistent with linkage to FIC1.
Conclusions: Conjugated cholic acid and chenodeoxycholic acid were synthesized in the liver and secreted into bile but could not reenter the liver from portal blood and accumulated in serum. In contrast, unconjugated ursodiol entered the liver and was conjugated and secreted into bile. Thus, the enterohepatic circulation of all conjugated bile acids was interrupted at the hepatic sinusoidal basolateral membrane. Unconjugated ursodiol bypassed the hepatic uptake block to enlarge the biliary and intestinal bile acid pools. A mutation in FIC1 recognized among the Amish and linkage of the disorder to FIC1 were excluded.