Background & aims: We have specified the features of progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis type 3 and investigated in 31 patients whether a defect of the multidrug resistance 3 gene (MDR3) underlies this phenotype.
Methods: MDR3 sequencing, liver MDR3 immunohistochemistry, and biliary phospholipid dosage were performed.
Results: Liver histology showed a pattern of biliary cirrhosis with patency of the biliary tree. Age at presentation ranged from the neonatal period to early adulthood. Sequence analysis revealed 16 different mutations in 17 patients. Mutations were identified on both alleles in 12 patients and only on 1 allele in 5. Four mutations lead to a frame shift, 2 are nonsense, and 10 are missense. An additional missense mutation probably representing a polymorphism was found in 5 patients. MDR3 mutations were associated with abnormal MDR3 canalicular staining and a low proportion of biliary phospholipids. Gallstones or episodes of cholestasis of pregnancy were found in patients or parents. Children with missense mutations had a less severe disease and more often a beneficial effect of ursodeoxycholic acid therapy.
Conclusions: At least one third of the patients with a progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis type 3 phenotype have a proven defect of MDR3. This gene defect should also be considered in adult liver diseases.