Animal models of copper-associated liver disease

Comp Hepatol. 2003 Apr 3;2(1):5. doi: 10.1186/1476-5926-2-5.


Recent advances in molecular biology have made possible the identification of genetic defects responsible for Wilson's disease, Indian childhood cirrhosis and copper toxicosis in Long Evans Cinnamon rats, toxic milk mice, and Bedlington terriers. The Wilson's disease gene is localized on human chromosome 13 and codes for ATP7B, a copper transporting P-type ATPase. A genetic defect similar to that of Wilson's disease occurs in Long Evans Cinnamon rats and toxic milk mice. Familial copper storage disorders in Bedlington and West Highland white terriers are associated with early subclinical disease, and copper accumulation with subsequent liver injury culminating in cirrhosis. The canine copper toxicosis locus in Bedlington terriers has been mapped to canine chromosome region CFA 10q26. Recently, a mutated MURR1 gene was discovered in Bedlington terriers affected with the disease. Idiopathic childhood cirrhosis is biochemically similar to copper toxicosis in Bedlington terriers, but clinically much more severe. Both conditions are characterized by the absence of neurologic damage and Kayser-Fleisher rings, and normal ceruloplasmin levels. A recent study added North Ronaldsay sheep to the list of promising animal models to study Indian childhood cirrhosis. Morphologic similarities between the two conditions include periportal to panlobular copper retention and liver changes varying from active hepatitis to panlobular pericellular fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Certain copper-associated disorders, such as chronic active hepatitis in Doberman pinschers and Skye terrier hepatitis are characterized by copper retention secondary to the underlying disease, thus resembling primary biliary cirrhosis in humans. Copper-associated liver disease has increasingly being recognized in Dalmatians. Copper-associated liver diseases in Dalmatians and Long Evans Cinnamom rats share many morphologic features. Fulminant hepatic failure in Dalmatians is characterized by high serum activities of alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase, and severe necrosis of centrilobular areas (periacinar, zone 3) hepatocytes. Macrophages and surviving hepatocytes contain copper-positive material. Liver disease associated with periacinar copper accumulation has also been described in Siamese cats. Many questions regarding copper metabolism in mammals, genetic background, pathogenesis and treatment of copper-associated liver diseases remain to be answered. This review describes the similarities between the clinico-pathological features of spontaneous copper-associated diseases in humans and domestic animals.