Background & aims: Acyl-CoA oxidase (ACOX2) is involved in the shortening of C27 cholesterol derivatives to generate C24 bile acids. Inborn errors affecting the rest of peroxisomal enzymes involved in bile acid biosynthesis have been described. Here we aimed at investigating the case of an adolescent boy with persistent hypertransaminasemia of unknown origin and suspected dysfunction in bile acid metabolism.
Methods: Serum and urine samples were taken from the patient, his sister and parents and underwent HPLC-MS/MS and HPLC-TOF analyses. Coding exons in genes of interest were amplified by high-fidelity PCR and sequenced. Wild-type or mutated (mutACOX2) variants were overexpressed in human hepatoblastoma HepG2 cells to determine ACOX2 enzymatic activity, expression and subcellular location.
Results: The patient's serum and urine showed negligible amounts of C24 bile acids, but augmented levels of C27 intermediates, mainly tauroconjugated trihydroxycholestanoic acid (THCA). Genetic analysis of enzymes potentially involved revealed a homozygous missense mutation (c.673C>T; R225W) in ACOX2. His only sister was also homozygous for this mutation and exhibited similar alterations in bile acid profiles. Both parents were heterozygous and presented normal C24 and C27 bile acid levels. Immunofluorescence studies showed similar protein size and peroxisomal localization for both normal and mutated variants. THCA biotransformation into cholic acid was enhanced in cells overexpressing ACOX2, but not in those overexpressing mutACOX2. Both cell types showed similar sensitivity to oxidative stress caused by C24 bile acids. In contrast, THCA-induced oxidative stress and cell death were reduced by overexpressing ACOX2, but not mutACOX2.
Conclusion: ACOX2 deficiency, a condition characterized by accumulation of toxic C27 bile acid intermediates, is a novel cause of isolated persistent hypertransaminasemia.
Lay summary: Elevation of serum transaminases is a biochemical sign of liver damage due to multiplicity of causes (viruses, toxins, autoimmunity, metabolic disorders). In rare cases the origin of this alteration remains unknown. We have identified by the first time in a young patient and his only sister a familiar genetic defect of an enzyme called ACOX2, which participates in the transformation of cholesterol into bile acids as a cause of increased serum transaminases in the absence of any other symptomatology. This treatable condition should be considered in the diagnosis of those patients where the cause of elevated transaminases remains obscure.
Keywords: Bile acid metabolism; Cholestatic liver diseases; Drug-induced hepatotoxicity; Genetic disorder.
Copyright © 2016 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.