Clinical and biochemical impact of vitamin B6 deficiency in primary sclerosing cholangitis before and after liver transplantation

J Hepatol. 2023 Oct;79(4):955-966. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2023.05.038. Epub 2023 Jun 14.


Background and aims: We previously demonstrated that people with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) had reduced gut microbial capacity to produce active vitamin B6 (pyridoxal 5'-phosphate [PLP]), which corresponded to lower circulating PLP levels and poor outcomes. Here, we define the extent and biochemical and clinical impact of vitamin B6 deficiency in people with PSC from several centers before and after liver transplantation (LT).

Methods: We used targeted liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry to measure B6 vitamers and B6-related metabolic changes in blood from geographically distinct cross-sectional cohorts totaling 373 people with PSC and 100 healthy controls to expand on our earlier findings. Furthermore, we included a longitudinal PSC cohort (n = 158) sampled prior to and serially after LT, and cohorts of people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) without PSC (n = 51) or with primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) (n = 100), as disease controls. We used Cox regression to measure the added value of PLP to predict outcomes before and after LT.

Results: In different cohorts, 17-38% of people with PSC had PLP levels below the biochemical definition of a vitamin B6 deficiency. The deficiency was more pronounced in PSC than in IBD without PSC and PBC. Reduced PLP was associated with dysregulation of PLP-dependent pathways. The low B6 status largely persisted after LT. Low PLP independently predicted reduced LT-free survival in both non-transplanted people with PSC and in transplant recipients with recurrent disease.

Conclusions: Low vitamin B6 status with associated metabolic dysregulation is a persistent feature of PSC. PLP was a strong prognostic biomarker for LT-free survival both in PSC and recurrent disease. Our findings suggest that vitamin B6 deficiency modifies the disease and provides a rationale for assessing B6 status and testing supplementation.

Impact and implications: We previously found that people with PSC had reduced gut microbial potential to produce essential nutrients. Across several cohorts, we find that the majority of people with PSC are either vitamin B6 deficient or have a marginal deficiency, which remains prevalent even after liver transplantation. Low vitamin B6 levels strongly associate with reduced liver transplantation-free survival as well as deficits in biochemical pathways dependent on vitamin B6, suggesting that the deficiency has a clinical impact on the disease. The results provide a rationale for measuring vitamin B6 and to investigate whether vitamin B6 supplementation or modification of the gut microbial community can help improve outcomes for people with PSC.

Keywords: PLP; PSC; liver transplantation; primary sclerosing cholangitis; recurrent PSC; vitamin B6.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cholangitis, Sclerosing* / complications
  • Cholangitis, Sclerosing* / surgery
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases* / complications
  • Liver
  • Vitamin B 6
  • Vitamin B 6 Deficiency* / complications


  • Vitamin B 6