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J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2013 Sep;26(14):1410-5. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2013.783810. Epub 2013 Apr 22.

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy: new insights into its pathogenesis.

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Department of Surgery, Oncology and Gastroenterology, University of Padova, Padova, Italy.



To search a specific gene expression profile in women with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) and to evaluate the maternal and foetal outcome.


We consecutively enrolled 12 women with ICP and 12 healthy pregnant controls. The gene expression profile was assayed with the microarray technique including a panel of 5541 human genes. Microarray data were validated by real-time PCR technique.


Caesarean delivery was performed in eight patients with ICP versus three controls (p = 0.05). ICP women delivered at earlier gestational age than control (p < 0.001). Foetal distress was recorded in two babies, but we failed to find any correlation between bile salt concentration and foetal distress. Twenty genes potentially correlated with ICP were found differentially expressed (p < 0.05). Among these, three belong to genetic classes involved in pathogenic mechanisms of ICP: (1) pathophysiology of pruritus (GABRA2, cases versus controls = 2, upregulated gene); (2) lipid metabolism and bile composition (HLPT, cases versus controls = 0.6, down-regulated gene) and (3) protein trafficking and cytoskeleton arrangement (KIFC3, cases versus controls = 0.5, down-regulated gene).


Different gene expression may contribute to the complex pathogenesis of ICP. An upregulation of GABRA2 receptor may indicate that GABA may play a role in the pathogenesis of pruritus in this condition.

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