Serine protease inhibitors in patients with chronic viral hepatitis

Original article


Elzouki AN, Verbaan H, Lindgren S, Widell A, Carlson J, Eriksson S.

Department of Medicine, University of Lund, University Hospital, Malmo, Sweden.

J Hepatol. 1997 Jul;27(1):42-8.


BACKGROUND/AIMS: This study aimed to determine whether deficiency of the major serine protease inhibitors (alpha1-antitrypsin (AAT) or alpha1-antichymotrypsin (ACT)) is associated with increased risk for chronic hepatitis B or C virus (HBV or HCV) infection. METHODS: We studied 709 adults with chronic liver disease who had undergone liver biopsy during the 14-year period 1978-92. Anti-HCV testing was carried out with second-generation ELISA and immunoblot assays (RIBA 2). HBV markers were tested with commercially available radioimmunoassays. ACT and AAT concentrations in plasma were measured with electroimmunoassay and immune nephelometry. Plasma samples were screened for the AAT PiZ deficiency with ELISA technique and phenotyped by isoelectric focusing. The 229Pro–>Ala mutation for ACT deficiency was identified by PCR techniques. RESULTS: Of the 709 patients, 132 (18.6%) were positive for anti-HCV according to RIBA 2. PiZ AAT deficiency was found in 44 (6.2%) of patients (one PiZZ, 38 PiMZ, and PiSZ), while subnormal ACT levels were found in 33 (4.6%) patients, frequencies that were higher than expected in the general population (p=0.0375 and p<0.0001, respectively). Of the PiZ-carriers, 8/44 (18%) were found to be anti-HCV positive according to RIBA 2, as compared to 123/662 (19%) non-PiZ-carriers (p>0.05). One of these patients had cirrhosis, four chronic active hepatitis, and three chronic persistent hepatitis. In contrast, 17/33 (51.5%) of the patients with subnormal ACT were anti-HCV positive (OR=5.2, CI=2.6-10.6; p<0.0001). No relationship was found between HBV infection and AAT deficiency or subnormal ACT levels. Only one patient with subnormal ACT levels was heterozygous for the 229Pro-->Ala mutation of ACT deficiency. There was no significant difference in the histological findings when the patients with subnormal ACT levels or PiZ allele were subgrouped according to HCV status. CONCLUSIONS: There is no overrepresentation of chronic HBV or HCV in heterozygous AAT deficiency, although an association with more severe liver disease in such patients cannot be excluded. In contrast, low plasma levels of ACT that may be acquired or hereditary, due to mutations other than 229Pro–>Ala, are frequent in HCV infection.

Keywords: α1-Antichymotrypsin; α1-Antitrypsin; Chronic liver disease; Hepatitis B virus; Hepatitis C virus; Serine protease inhibitors; Serpins; Viral hepatitis.