Plasma YKL-40: a new potential marker of fibrosis in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis?

Scand J Gastroenterol. 1997 Jun;32(6):582-90. doi: 10.3109/00365529709025104.


Background: YKL-40 (human cartilage glycoprotein-39, or 38-kDa heparin-binding glycoprotein) is a mammalian member of a protein family that includes bacterial chitinases. YKL-40 mRNA is expressed by human liver and may play a role in tissue remodelling. The aims were to assess whether circulating YKL-40 is released or extracted in the hepatosplanchnic system and to localize YKL-40 in liver tissue.

Methods: Plasma YKL-40 was determined by radioimmunoassay in 25 patients with liver diseases (alcoholic cirrhosis (n = 20), chronic active hepatitis (n = 2), cirrhosis of unknown aetiology (n = 2), and fatty liver (n = 1) and in 18 subjects with normal liver function during a haemodynamic investigation with catheterization of liver vein and the femoral artery. Immunohistochemical studies of the localization of YKL-40 in cryostal liver biopsy specimens were obtained from eight other patients with alcoholic liver disease.

Results: Plasma YKL-40 was significantly increased in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis (median, 523 micrograms/l; P < 0.001) compared with controls (106 micrograms/l), and plasma YKL-40 in the hepatic vein was higher (P < 0.01) than that of the artery in both the patients and controls, showing release of YKL-40 from the hepatosplanchnic area. The release rate of YKL-40 from the hepatosplanchnic area was higher in patients with liver disease than in controls (11.0 versus 2.1 micrograms/min, P < 0.05). Furthermore, the highest plasma YKL-40 levels were found in patients with a moderate or severe degree of liver fibrosis, and immunohistochemical studies showed positive staining for YKL-40 antigen in areas of the liver biopsy with fibrosis.

Conclusions: The increased plasma YKL-40 in patients with alcoholic cirrhosis may reflect the remodelling of liver fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipokines
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biopsy
  • Cartilage
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chitinase-3-Like Protein 1
  • Female
  • Glycoproteins / blood*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lectins
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Alcoholic / blood*
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Alcoholic / diagnosis
  • Liver Diseases / blood
  • Liver Diseases / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radioimmunoassay


  • Adipokines
  • Biomarkers
  • CHI3L1 protein, human
  • Chitinase-3-Like Protein 1
  • Glycoproteins
  • Lectins