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J Hepatol. 2009 Feb;50(2):370-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2008.09.016. Epub 2008 Dec 4.

A functional variation in CHI3L1 is associated with severity of liver fibrosis and YKL-40 serum levels in chronic hepatitis C infection.

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Department of Internal Medicine III, University Hospital Aachen, RWTH Aachen, Pauwelsstr. 30, D-52057 Aachen, Germany.



YKL-40 is a chitinase-like protein involved in matrix remodelling and a non-invasive fibrosis marker. We assessed whether a functional promoter polymorphism in CHI3L1, encoding YKL-40, is associated with HCV-induced liver fibrosis and influences YKL-40 serum concentrations.


The CHI3L1 -131G-->C promoter polymorphism was genotyped in two cohorts of HCV infected patients (n=440) by 5'-endonuclease assays. Histological fibrosis scores and YKL-40 serum levels (ELISA) were associated with CHI3L1 -131G-->C by quantitative and qualitative genetic analyses and corrected by multivariate analysis.


CHI3L1 -131G-->C genotype was strongly associated with the stage of liver fibrosis in the screening (n=265, P=0.001) and validation cohort (n=175, P=0.009). Homozygous carriers of the G allele were protected from severe fibrosis (F3/F4). This association was confirmed after correction for age and gender. Functionally, the G allele was associated with reduced serum levels of YKL-40 in HCV infected patients (P=0.002).


The CHI3L1 promoter polymorphism -131G-->C determines YKL-40 serum levels and is associated with the severity of HCV-induced liver fibrosis. These results suggest a functional role of YKL-40 in liver fibrogenesis and should be taken into account when using YKL-40 as a non-invasive fibrosis marker.

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