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Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019 Aug;16(8):497-511. doi: 10.1038/s41575-019-0156-4.

Pathobiology of inherited biliary diseases: a roadmap to understand acquired liver diseases.

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Liver Center, Department of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Molecular Medicine, University of Padova, Padova, Italy.
Department of Liver and Gastrointestinal Diseases, Biodonostia Health Research Institute, Donostia University Hospital, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), San Sebastian, Spain.
National Institute for the Study of Liver and Gastrointestinal Diseases (CIBERehd, Instituto de Salud Carlos III), Madrid, Spain.
IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science, Bilbao, Spain.
Liver Center, Department of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.
Department of Molecular Medicine, University of Padova, Padova, Italy.


Bile duct epithelial cells, also known as cholangiocytes, regulate the composition of bile and its flow. Acquired, congenital and genetic dysfunctions in these cells give rise to a set of diverse and complex diseases, often of unknown aetiology, called cholangiopathies. New knowledge has been steadily acquired about genetic and congenital cholangiopathies, and this has led to a better understanding of the mechanisms of acquired cholangiopathies. This Review focuses on findings from studies on Alagille syndrome, polycystic liver diseases, fibropolycystic liver diseases (Caroli disease and congenital hepatic fibrosis) and cystic fibrosis-related liver disease. In particular, knowledge on the role of Notch signalling in biliary repair and tubulogenesis has been advanced by work on Alagille syndrome, and investigations in polycystic liver diseases have highlighted the role of primary cilia in biliary pathophysiology and the concept of biliary angiogenic signalling and its role in cyst growth and biliary repair. In fibropolycystic liver disease, research has shown that loss of fibrocystin generates a signalling cascade that increases β-catenin signalling, activates the NOD-, LRR- and pyrin domain-containing 3 inflammasome, and promotes production of IL-1β and other chemokines that attract macrophages and orchestrate the process of pericystic and portal fibrosis, which are the main mechanisms of progression in cholangiopathies. In cystic fibrosis-related liver disease, lack of cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator increases the sensitivity of epithelial Toll-like receptor 4 that sustains the secretion of nuclear factor-κB-dependent cytokines and peribiliary inflammation in response to gut-derived products, providing a model for primary sclerosing cholangitis. These signalling mechanisms may be targeted therapeutically and they offer a possibility for the development of novel treatments for acquired cholangiopathies.

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