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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 21;8(6):e66328. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066328. Print 2013.

Serum Fucosylated Haptoglobin as a Novel Diagnostic Biomarker for Predicting Hepatocyte Ballooning and Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis.

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Department of Molecular Biochemistry and Clinical Investigation, Osaka University, Graduate School of Medicine, Suita, Osaka, Japan ; Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Osaka University, Graduate School of Medicine, Suita, Osaka, Japan.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a growing medical problem around the world. NAFLD patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) can develop cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. The ability to distinguish NASH from simple steatosis would be of great clinical significance. Ballooning hepatocytes are characteristic of typical pathological NASH; here, the polarized secretion of proteins is disrupted due to destruction of the cytoskeleton. We previously reported that fucosylated glycoproteins are secreted into bile, but not into sera in normal liver. Therefore, we hypothesized that the fucosylation-based sorting machinery would be disrupted in ballooning hepatocytes, and serum fucosylated glycoproteins would increase in NASH patients. To confirm our hypothesis, we evaluated serum fucosylated haptoglobin (Fuc-Hpt) levels in biopsy-proven NAFLD patients (nā€Š=ā€Š126) using a lectin-antibody ELISA kit. Fuc-Hpt levels were significantly increased in NASH patients compared with non-NASH (NAFLD patients without NASH) patients. Interestingly, Fuc-Hpt levels showed a significant stepwise increase with increasing hepatocyte ballooning scores. Multiple logistic regression analysis showed that Fuc-Hpt levels were independent and significant determinants of the presence of ballooning hepatocytes. Moreover, Fuc-Hpt levels were useful in monitoring liver fibrosis staging. Next, to investigate the significance of serum Fuc-Hpt in a larger population, we measured Fuc-Hpt levels in ultrasound-diagnosed NAFLD subjects (nā€Š=ā€Š870) who received a medical health checkup. To evaluate NAFLD disease severity, we used the FIB-4 index (based on age, serum AST and ALT levels, and platelet counts). Fuc-Hpt levels increased stepwise with increasing FIB-4 index.


Measurement of serum Fuc-Hpt levels can distinguish NASH from non-NASH patients, and predict the presence of ballooning hepatocytes in NAFLD patients with sufficient accuracy. These results support the potential usefulness of measuring Fuc-Hpt levels in clinical practice.

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