Primary biliary cirrhosis is an autoimmune disease characterized by high titer autoantibodies predominantly against mitochondrial antigens PDC-E2, BCOADC-E2 and OGDC-E2. Currently orthotopic liver transplant (OLT) is the major form of treatment for end-stage primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), but it is still unclear whether the autoimmune response continues post-transplantation. In this study we took advantage of a well-defined collection of sera collected serially before and after liver transplantation. We assayed these sera for quantitative and isotype-specific titers of antibodies against a set of recombinant mitochondrial autoantigens. We also studied reactivity to gp210. Serum samples were taken before transplantation and at intervals of 6 months, 1, 2, and 3 years after OLT. Before OLT 24/35 patients were AMA-positive, including seven out of the 35 to PDC-E2 alone, eight to both PDC-E2 and OGDC-E2, six to both PDC-E2 and BCOADC-E2, two to BCOADC-E2 alone and one to OGDC-E2. Following OLT, the frequency of sera that responded to PDC-E2 alone increased from seven to 12/35. Similarly, reactivity to BCOADC-E2 slightly increased from two to four out of 35. However, there was an overall decrease in sera that responded to more than one antigen. Neither Ig isotype nor subclass of the autoimmune response changed following OLT. Findings with gp210 were similar, in that reactivity to gp210 was found in nine out of 35 patients pre-OLT; following OLT the frequency decreased to seven out of 35 patients. Overall, the titers of AMAs decline slightly during the first year post-OLT, but are equivalent to pre-OLT values by 6 months. Moreover, the antibody subclass/ isotype remained unchanged. These data suggest that the removal of a diseased PBC liver has little, if any, impact on the serological characteristics of PBC. Moreover, it provides information regarding the natural history of PBC, particularly on the long latency time for disease development.
Copyright 1997 Academic Press Limited.