The enigma of primary biliary cirrhosis

Carlo F Selmi, Yasunori Ichiki, Pietro Invernizzi, Mauro Podda, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a chronic cholestatic disease characterized by a striking predominance in female patients (with most cases diagnosed between ages 40 and 60 yr) as well as serum auto-antibodies to mitochondrial antigens, elevated serum immunoglobulin M, progressive destruction of intrahepatic bile ducts, and, ultimately, liver cirrhosis and failure (1). The precise mechanisms leading to selective destruction of biliary epithelial cells lining intrahepatic bile ducts are still unknown, although numerous immunomediated pathways have been proposed. Genetic background appears to be important in determining susceptibility to the disease (2), but no clear association with alleles in the major histocompatibility complex has been identified. Molecular mimicry either by infections (3) or xenobiotics (4) has been proposed to be capable of breaking tolerance in genetically predisposed individuals, thus leading to onset of PBC. This article describes and discusses the available data regarding the immunomediated pathogenesis of PBC (with particular attention to auto-antibodies and autoreactive T-cells) and presents the recent evidence indicating a role for either xenobiotic chemicals or novel infectious agents in the induction of the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-81
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2005


  • Auto-antibodies
  • Etiology
  • Pathogenesis
  • Primary biliary cirrhosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy


Dive into the research topics of 'The enigma of primary biliary cirrhosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this