Fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19) is an endocrine factor produced by the small intestine in response to uptake of luminal bile salts. In the liver, FGF19 binds to FGF receptor-4, resulting in down-regulation of cytochrome P (CYP) 7A1 and reduced bile salt synthesis. Down-regulation of CYP7A1 under cholestatic conditions has been attributed to bile salt-mediated induction of the transcriptional repressor short heterodimer partner (SHP), because the interrupted enterohepatic cycle of bile salts is thought to abrogate intestinal FGF19 production and thus result in lowering of plasma FGF19 levels. Unexpectedly, we observed marked elevation of plasma FGF19 in patients with extrahepatic cholestasis caused by a pancreatic tumor (2.3 +/- 2.3 in cholestatic versus 0.40 +/- 0.25 ng/mL and 0.29 +/- 0.12 ng/mL in postcholestatic patients who received preoperative drainage by biliary stenting, P = 0.004, and noncholestatic control patients, P = 0.04, respectively). Although FGF19 messenger RNA (mRNA) is virtually absent in normal liver, FGF19 mRNA was strongly increased (31-fold to 374-fold, P < 0.001) in the liver of cholestatic patients in comparison with drained and control patients. In the absence of changes in SHP mRNA, CYP7A1 mRNA was strongly reduced (7.2-fold to 24-fold, P < 0.005) in the liver of cholestatic patients in comparison with drained and control patients, indicating an alternative regulatory pathway. Alterations in transcripts encoding hepatobiliary transporters [adenosine triphosphate-binding cassette, subfamily C, member 3 (ABCC3)/multidrug resistance protein 3 (MRP3), organic solute transporter alpha/beta (OSTalpha/beta), organic anion-transporting polypeptide (OATP1B1)] further suggest that bile salts are secreted via a nonbiliary route in patients with extrahepatic cholestasis.
Conclusion: The liver expresses FGF19 under conditions of extrahepatic cholestasis. This is accompanied by a number of adaptations aimed at protecting the liver against bile salt toxicity. FGF19 signaling may be involved in some of these adaptations.