Background & aims: Alcoholic hepatitis (AH) is characterized by hepatocellular damage, inflammation, and fibrosis. We performed a prospective study to associate hepatic expression of the CXC subfamily of chemokines with histology findings and prognosis of patients with AH.
Methods: Liver biopsy samples from 105 patients with AH and 5 normal liver samples (controls) were evaluated for steatosis, inflammation, fibrosis, and cholestasis. Computer-based morphometric analysis assessed the numbers of infiltrating CD3+ T cells and CD15+ cells (neutrophils); terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick-end labeling staining was used to quantify apoptosis. Expression of CXC and CC chemokines and selected signaling components were assessed by quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction; protein levels of interleukin (IL)-8 and Gro-alpha also were determined by immunohistochemistry. Serum levels of IL-8 and Gro-alpha were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The Cox regression model identified variables associated with mortality.
Results: Most patients (75%) had severe AH; their 90-day mortality rate was 21.9%. In AH liver samples, expression of the CXC subfamily members IL-8, Gro-alpha, CXCL5, CXCL6, CXCL10, and platelet factor 4 was up-regulated and compared with controls. The CC chemokine CCL2, but not CCL5, also was up-regulated. Higher expression levels of IL-8, CXCL5, Gro-gamma, and CXCL6 were associated with worse prognosis. Expression of CXC components correlated with neutrophil infiltration and the severity of portal hypertension. In the multivariate analysis, IL-8 protein levels were an independent predictor of 90-day mortality. IL-8 and Gro-alpha serum levels did not correlate with prognosis.
Conclusions: Hepatic expression of CXC components correlates with prognosis of patients with AH. Reagents that target CXC chemokines might be developed as therapeutics.