Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy: new insights into its pathogenesis

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2013 Sep;26(14):1410-5. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2013.783810. Epub 2013 Apr 22.


Aim: To search a specific gene expression profile in women with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) and to evaluate the maternal and foetal outcome.

Methods: We consecutively enrolled 12 women with ICP and 12 healthy pregnant controls. The gene expression profile was assayed with the microarray technique including a panel of 5541 human genes. Microarray data were validated by real-time PCR technique.

Results: Caesarean delivery was performed in eight patients with ICP versus three controls (p = 0.05). ICP women delivered at earlier gestational age than control (p < 0.001). Foetal distress was recorded in two babies, but we failed to find any correlation between bile salt concentration and foetal distress. Twenty genes potentially correlated with ICP were found differentially expressed (p < 0.05). Among these, three belong to genetic classes involved in pathogenic mechanisms of ICP: (1) pathophysiology of pruritus (GABRA2, cases versus controls = 2, upregulated gene); (2) lipid metabolism and bile composition (HLPT, cases versus controls = 0.6, down-regulated gene) and (3) protein trafficking and cytoskeleton arrangement (KIFC3, cases versus controls = 0.5, down-regulated gene).

Conclusions: Different gene expression may contribute to the complex pathogenesis of ICP. An upregulation of GABRA2 receptor may indicate that GABA may play a role in the pathogenesis of pruritus in this condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cholestasis, Intrahepatic / blood
  • Cholestasis, Intrahepatic / etiology*
  • Cholestasis, Intrahepatic / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Kinesins / blood
  • Middle Aged
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Phospholipid Transfer Proteins / blood
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications / etiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / genetics*
  • Pruritus* / blood
  • Pruritus* / etiology
  • Pruritus* / genetics
  • Receptors, GABA-A / blood*
  • Receptors, GABA-A / physiology
  • Synaptotagmins / blood
  • Young Adult


  • GABRA2 protein, human
  • Kifc3 protein, human
  • PLTP protein, human
  • Phospholipid Transfer Proteins
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • SYT7 protein, human
  • Synaptotagmins
  • Kinesins

Supplementary concepts

  • Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy