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J Hepatol. 2011 Oct;55(4):906-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2011.01.028. Epub 2011 Feb 18.

Common polymorphism in the PNPLA3/adiponutrin gene confers higher risk of cirrhosis and liver damage in alcoholic liver disease.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatopancreatology and Digestive Oncology, Erasme Hospital, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium.



A recent genome-wide association study identified genetic polymorphism (rs738409 C>G) in the PNPLA3/adiponutrin gene associated with liver steatosis. This variant has also been linked to increased risk of alcoholic liver disease (ALD) and cirrhosis in Mestizo Mexicans with excessive alcohol intake. Our aim was to study the influence of this polymorphism on European Caucasian patients with histologically suggestive ALD.


Three-hundred-and-twenty-eight healthy controls and 330 ALD patients, among whom 265 had cirrhosis, were genotyped for the rs738409 polymorphism. We studied the impact of rs738409 on clinical and biological parameters, together with histological staging of steatosis and fibrosis. PNPLA3 messenger RNA (mRNA) levels were measured by quantitative real-time PCR according to the patient's phenotype.


The G-allele was significantly more frequent in ALD patients than in controls (odds ratio [OR] = 1.54, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.12-2.11 p = 0.008) and was, among ALD patients, significantly associated with steatosis (p = 0.048), fibrosis (p = 0.001), and greater risk of cirrhosis (p = 0.001). In multivariate analysis, rs738409 remained the strongest independent factor associated with risk of cirrhosis (OR = 2.08; 95% CI = 1.15-3.77; p = 0.02). Furthermore, the PNPLA3 mRNA liver expression level was significantly lower in patients with more advanced fibrosis (p = 0.03) and negatively correlated with the hepatic venous pressure gradient (r = -0.41, p = 0.006).


In European Caucasians, the rs738409 variant is associated with increased risk of ALD, liver damage, and cirrhosis. Further prospective studies are required to confirm these results and to evaluate the potential of PNPLA3 as both a predictor and a therapeutic target in ALD.


[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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