Circulating microparticles as disease-specific biomarkers of severity of inflammation in patients with hepatitis C or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis

Gastroenterology. 2012 Aug;143(2):448-58. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2012.04.031. Epub 2012 Apr 24.


Background & aims: Microparticles released into the bloodstream upon activation or apoptosis of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells correlate with inflammation as determined by histologic analysis in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC). Patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) can be differentiated from those with CHC based on activation of distinct sets of immune cells in the liver.

Methods: We compared profiles of circulating microparticles from patients with NAFL and NASH (n = 67) to those of CHC (n = 42), with healthy individuals (controls) using flow cytometry; the profiles were correlated with inflammation grade and fibrosis stage based on histologic analyses. We assessed the ability of the profiles to determine the severity of inflammation and fibrosis based on serologic and histologic analyses.

Results: Patients with CHC had increased levels of microparticles from CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells; the levels correlated with disease severity based on histologic analysis and levels of alanine aminotransferase. Patients with NAFL or NASH had significant increases in numbers of microparticles from invariant natural killer T cells and macrophages/monocytes (CD14(+)), which mediate pathogenesis of NASH. Microparticles from CD14(+) and invariant natural killer T cells correlated with levels of alanine aminotransferase and severity of NASH (based on histology). Levels of microparticles could differentiate between patients with NAFL or NASH and those with CHC, or either group of patients and controls (area under the receiver operating characteristic curves ranging from 0.56 to 0.99).

Conclusions: Quantification of immune cell microparticles from serum samples can be used to assess the extent and characteristics of hepatic inflammation in patients with chronic liver disease.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alanine Transaminase / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / metabolism*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fatty Liver / blood
  • Fatty Liver / complications
  • Fatty Liver / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / blood
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / complications
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / etiology*
  • Linear Models
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / blood
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • ROC Curve
  • Severity of Illness Index*


  • Biomarkers
  • Alanine Transaminase