Cutting edge issues in primary sclerosing cholangitis

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19 Scopus citations


Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a chronic inflammatory liver disease characterized by the destruction of medium- to large-sized bile ducts and intense concentric fibrosis. Complications from PSC include bacterial cholangitis, cirrhosis, and cholangiocarcinoma and a therapy that might alter the natural history of the disease remains lacking. Our understanding of the pathogenesis of PSC also remains rudimentary but the strong association between PSC and inflammatory bowel disease suggest causal links between the diseases. The male predominance in PSC, lack of a defined, pathogenic auto-antigen, and the potential role of the innate immune system suggest that PSC may be due to dysregulation of immunity rather than a classic autoimmune disease. However, PSC shares several genetic susceptibility loci with other autoimmune diseases including the human leukocyte antigen DRB01*03 haplotype. The precise immune response of PSC is largely unknown but likely involves activation of the innate immune system by bacterial components delivered to the liver via the portal vein. Induction of adhesion molecules and chemokines leads to the recruitment of intestinal lymphocytes. Bile duct injury results from the sustained inflammation and production of inflammatory cytokines. Biliary strictures may cause further damage as a result of bile stasis and recurrent secondary bacterial cholangitis. Progress in our basic understanding of PSC is desperately needed in order to rationally design new therapeutic approaches to this disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-150
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Genetics
  • Innate immunity
  • Lymphocyte trafficking
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy


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