Primary biliary cirrhosis: From induction to destruction

A. Nishio, N. M. Bass, V. A C Luketic, R. L. Coppel, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic cholestatic liver disease that predominantly affects middle-aged women; fatigue and pruritus are the most common symptoms at presentation. Liver function tests are consistent with cholestasis and reveal an elevation of serum alkaline phosphatase and γ-glutamyl transpeptidase with or without elevation of aminotransferase levels. Histologically, PBC is characterized by the destruction of the intrahepatic small bile ducts and subsequently fibrosis. The serological hallmark of the disease is the presence of antimitochondrial antibodies, which are found in 95% of patients with PBC. The antimitochondrial antibodies are directed against the 2-oxo-acid dehydrogenase complexes located on the inner membrane of the mitochondria. PBC generally slowly progresses, even over decades, and may lead to liver failure. In symptomatic patients, advanced age, elevated serum bilirubin levels, decreased serum albumin levels, and cirrhosis each correlate with shortened survival. Immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory drugs have been used in the treatment of PBC based on the presumed autoimmune pathogenesis, but satisfactory agents leading to complete reversal or cure of the disease are not available. At present ursodeoxycholic acid appears to be the only effective therapy in preventing or delaying the need for liver transplantation and improving survival. However, a number of patients receiving ursodeoxycholic acid still develop progressive disease and require transplantation; transplantation is the only effective therapy at the end stage of the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-102
Number of pages14
JournalSeminars in Gastrointestinal Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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