Publications by authors named "Stefania Grimaudo"

72 Publications

PCSK9 rs11591147 R46L loss-of-function variant protects against liver damage in individuals with NAFLD.

Liver Int 2021 02 2;41(2):321-332. Epub 2020 Nov 2.

Sezione di Gastroenterologia e Epatologia, PROMISE, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.

Background And Aims: The proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) plays a key role in cholesterol homeostasis, and its inhibition represents an effective therapy to lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. In this study, we examined the impact of the PCSK9 rs11591147 loss-of-function (LOF) variant on liver damage in a multicenter collection of patients at risk of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), in clinical samples and experimental models.

Methods: We considered 1874 consecutive individuals at risk of NASH as determined by histology. The SNP rs11591147, encoding for the p.R46L variant of PCSK9, was genotyped by TaqMan assays. We also evaluated 1) PCSK9 mRNA hepatic expression in human liver, and 2) the impact of a NASH-inducing diet in mice with hepatic overexpression of human PCSK9.

Results: Carriers of PCSK9 rs11591147 had lower circulating LDL-C levels and were protected against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (OR: 0.42; 95% CI: 0.22-0.81; P = .01), NASH (OR: 0.48; 95% CI: 0.26-0.87; P = .01) and more severe fibrosis (OR: 0.55; 95% CI: 0.32-0.94; P = .03) independently of clinical, metabolic and genetic confounding factors. PCSK9 hepatic expression was directly correlated with liver steatosis (P = .03). Finally, liver-specific overexpression of human PCSK9 in male mice drives NAFLD and fibrosis upon a dietary challenge.

Conclusions: In individuals at risk of NASH, PCSK9 was induced with hepatic fat accumulation and PCSK9 rs11591147 LOF variant was protective against liver steatosis, NASH and fibrosis, suggesting that PCSK9 inhibition may be a new therapeutic strategy to treat NASH.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.14711DOI Listing
February 2021

SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load, IFNλ Polymorphisms and the Course of COVID-19: An Observational Study.

J Clin Med 2020 Oct 15;9(10). Epub 2020 Oct 15.

Department of Health Promotion, Mother and Child Care, Internal Medicine and Medical Specialties, University of Palermo, 90127 Palermo, Italy.

The course of SARS-CoV-2 infection ranges from asymptomatic to a multiorgan disease. In this observational study, we investigated SARS-CoV-2 infected subjects with defined outcomes, evaluating the relationship between viral load and single nucleotide polymorphisms of genes codifying for IFNλs (interferon). The study enrolled 381 patients with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. For each patient, a standardized form was filled including sociodemographic variables and clinical outcomes. The host's gene polymorphisms (IFNL3 rs1297860 C/T and INFL4 rs368234815 TT/ΔG) and RtReal-Time PCR cycle threshold (PCR Ct) value on SARS-CoV-2 were assessed on nasal, pharyngeal or nasopharyngeal swabs. Higher viral loads were found in patients aged > 74 years and homozygous mutant polymorphisms DG in IFNL4 (adj-OR = 1.16, 95% CI = 1.01-1.34 and adj-OR = 1.24, 95% CI = 1.09-1.40, respectively). After adjusting for age and sex, a statistically significantly lower risk of hospitalization was observed in subjects with higher RtReal-Time PCR cycle threshold values (adj-OR = 0.95, 95% CI = 0.91, 0.99; = 0.028). Our data support the correlation between SARS-CoV-2 load and disease severity, and suggest that IFNλ polymorphisms could affect the ability of the host to modulate viral infection without a clear impact on the outcome of COVID-19.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/jcm9103315DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7602550PMC
October 2020

PNPLA3 rs738409 C>G Variant Predicts Fibrosis Progression by Noninvasive Tools in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2020 Sep 6. Epub 2020 Sep 6.

Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, PROMISE, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.

Liver fibrosis is the main predictor of events in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and its evolution is characterized by a nonlinear trend mostly affected by metabolic risk factors, severity of liver inflammation and steatosis, and weight loss. The rs738409 C>G common variant in PNPLA3 gene has been associated with severity of fibrosis and risk of liver-related events in NAFLD. Noninvasive tests as Fibrosis-4 (FIB-4) and liver stiffness measurement (LSM) are useful to rule-out advanced fibrosis and they could be reliable to predict fibrosis progression. We aimed to evaluate in patients with NAFLD whether PNPLA3 rs738409 C>G variant impacts on fibrosis progression, noninvasively assessed by FIB-4 and LSM.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2020.09.009DOI Listing
September 2020

Optimizing Sequential Systemic Therapies for Advanced Hepatocellular Carcinoma: A Decision Analysis.

Cancers (Basel) 2020 Jul 31;12(8). Epub 2020 Jul 31.

Department of Health Promotion Sciences Maternal and Infant Care, Section of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Internal Medicine and Medical Specialties, PROMISE, University of Palermo, 90127 Palermo, Italy.

An optimal sequential systemic therapy for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has not been discovered. We developed a decision model based on available clinical trials to identify an optimal risk/benefit strategy for sequences of novel systemic agents. A Markov model was built to simulate overall survival (OS) among patients with advanced HCC. Three first-line (single-agent Sorafenib or Lenvatinib, and combination of Atezolizumab plus Bevacizumab) followed by five second-line treatments (Regorafenib, Cabozantinib, Ramucirumab, Nivolumab, Pembrolizumab) were compared in fifteen sequential strategies. The likelihood of transition between states (initial treatment, cancer progression, death) was derived from clinical trials. Life-year gained (LYG) was the main outcome. Rates of severe adverse events (SAEs) (≥grade 3) were calculated. The innovative measure, called incremental safety-effectiveness ratio (ISER), of the two best sequential treatments was calculated as the difference in probability of SAEs divided by LYG. Lenvatinib followed by Nivolumab (median OS, 27 months) was the most effective sequence, producing a LYG of 0.75, while Atezolizumab plus Bevacizumab followed by Nivolumab was the safest sequence (SAEs 40%). Accordingly, the net health benefit assessed by ISER favored Lenvatinib followed by Nivolumab, compared to Atezolizumab plus Bevacizumab, followed by Nivolumab in 52% of cases. : Further sequential clinical trials or large-scale real-world studies may prove useful to evaluate the net health benefit of the best sequential treatment for advanced HCC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers12082132DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7464739PMC
July 2020

Hepatitis C virus eradication by direct antiviral agents abates oxidative stress in patients with advanced liver fibrosis.

Liver Int 2020 11 4;40(11):2820-2827. Epub 2020 Aug 4.

Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, PROMISE, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.

Background And Aims: HCV eradication improves non-hepatic outcomes such as cardiovascular diseases, although without clearly defined mechanisms. In this study we aimed to assess whether improvement of carotid atherosclerosis may be linked to a reduction in systemic oxidative stress after viral clearance.

Methods: We studied a retrospective cohort of 105 patients (age 62.4 ± 11.2 years; 62 men) with F3/F4 fibrosis, characterized by carotid ultrasonography at baseline and at sustained virologic response (SVR) follow-up. Levels of 8-iso-prostaglandin F (F -isoprostanes) and other oxidative stress markers were measured on frozen sera. Association between change (denoted as Δ) in oxidative stress markers (exposures) and change in carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) (outcome) was examined using multiple linear regression.

Results: Subclinical atherosclerosis, defined as the presence of carotid plaque and/or cIMT ≥ 0.9, was present in 72% of the cohort. All patients achieved SVR that led to reduction in cIMT (0.92 ± 0.20 vs 0.83 ± 0.21 mm, P < .001). HCV eradication markedly decreased serum levels of F -isoprostanes (620.5 [143.2; 1904.1] vs 119.51 [63.2; 400.6] pg/mL, P < .0001), lipid hydroperoxides (13.8 [6.3; 20.7] vs 4.9 [2.3; 9.6] nmol/μl, P < .0001) and 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (558.9 [321.0; 6301.2] vs 294.51 [215.31; 408.95] pg/mL, P < .0001), whereas increased serum GPx activity (10.44 [4.6; 16.3] vs 13.75 [9.42; 20.63] nmol/min/mL, P = .001). By multiple linear regression analysis ΔcIMT was independently associated with ΔF -isoprostanes (β: 1.746 [0.948; 2.543]; P < .0001) after adjustment for age, baseline F -isoprostanes and baseline IMT.

Conclusions: Besides association of lipid peroxidation with severity of liver disease, the reduction in F -isoprostanes may be involved in the improvement of atherosclerosis after HCV eradication.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.14608DOI Listing
November 2020

Neurotensin up-regulation is associated with advanced fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with MAFLD.

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids 2020 10 11;1865(10):158765. Epub 2020 Jul 11.

General Medicine and Metabolic Diseases, Fondazione IRCCS Cà Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy; Departments of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Neurotensin (NTS), a 13-aminoacid peptide localized in central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract, is involved in lipid metabolism and promotes various cancers onset mainly by binding to neurotensin receptor 1 (NTSR1). Increased plasma levels of pro-NTS, the stable NTS precursor, have been associated with type 2 diabetes (T2D), cardiovascular diseases and metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD). We aimed to evaluate 1) the impact of NTS rs1800832 and NTSR1 rs6090453 genetic variants on liver damage in 1166 MAFLD European individuals, 2) the relation between NTS variant and circulating pro-NTS and 3) the hepatic NTS expression by RNAseq transcriptomic analysis in 125 bariatric patients.

Results: The NTS rs1800832 G allele was associated with hepatic fibrosis (OR 1.27, 95% confidence interval (CI). 1.02-1.58; p = 0.03), even more in carriers of both NTS and NTSR1 G risk alleles (OR 1.17, 95% CI. 1.03-1.34; p = 0.01), with cirrhosis (OR 1.58, 95% CI. 1.07-2.34; p = 0.02) and HCC (OR 1.98, 95% CI. 1.24-3.2; p = 0.004). Pro-NTS circulating levels were correlated with T2D (p = 0.005), BMI, (p = 0.04), age (p = 0.0016), lobular inflammation (p = 0.0025), fibrosis>2 (p < 0.0001), cirrhosis (p = 0.0009) and HCC (p < 0.0001) and more so after stratification for the NTS G allele. Transcriptomic data showed that hepatic NTS expression correlated with that of fibrogenic genes (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: NTS rs1800832 variant is associated with advanced fibrosis and HCC in MAFLD patients likely affecting NTS protein activity. The rs6090453 NTSR1 gene variant synergizes with NTS rs1800832 mutation to promote liver damage. Prospective studies are necessary to confirm NTS role in liver disease progression.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbalip.2020.158765DOI Listing
October 2020

The "Janus" Role of C/EBPs Family Members in Cancer Progression.

Int J Mol Sci 2020 Jun 17;21(12). Epub 2020 Jun 17.

Department of Health Promotion Sciences, Maternal and Infant Care, Internal Medicine and Medical Specialties, University of Palermo, via del Vespro 129, 90127 Palermo, Italy.

CCAAT/enhancer-binding proteins (C/EBPs) constitute a family of transcription factors composed of six members that are critical for normal cellular differentiation in a variety of tissues. They promote the expression of genes through interaction with their promoters. Moreover, they have a key role in regulating cellular proliferation through interaction with cell cycle proteins. C/EBPs are considered to be tumor suppressor factors due to their ability to arrest cell growth (contributing to the terminal differentiation of several cell types) and for their role in cellular response to DNA damage, nutrient deprivation, hypoxia, and genotoxic agents. However, C/EBPs can elicit completely opposite effects on cell proliferation and cancer development and they have been described as both tumor promoters and tumor suppressors. This "Janus" role of C/EBPs depends on different factors, such as the type of tumor, the isoform/s expressed in cells, the type of dimerization (homo- or heterodimerization), the presence of inhibitory elements, and the ability to inhibit the expression of other tumor suppressors. In this review, we discuss the implication of the C/EBPs family in cancer, focusing on the molecular aspects that make these transcription factors tumor promoters or tumor suppressors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21124308DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7352866PMC
June 2020

Aminopyrine breath test predicts liver-related events and death in HCV-related cirrhosis on SVR after DAA therapy.

Liver Int 2020 03 25;40(3):530-538. Epub 2019 Sep 25.

Sezione di Gastroenterologia e Epatologia, PROMISE, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.

Background & Aims: In patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related advanced cirrhosis, the effects of sustained virological response (SVR) by direct antiviral agents (DAAs) on decompensation and liver deaths are less clearcut, since up to 30% of patients do not improve, and no predictors of outcome have been identified. We used C-aminopyrine breath test (ABT) to assess whether its changes can predict liver-related outcomes after DAA treatment in patients with HCV cirrhosis.

Methods: Fifty consecutive patients with HCV cirrhosis were enrolled. Patients were included if they had Child A cirrhosis at risk for decompensation - defined as Child A6 (N = 22, 44%) or previous decompensation (N = 7, 14%) - or Child B cirrhosis (N = 21, 42%) eligible for DAA-based antiviral therapy. ABT was performed at baseline and 12 weeks after the end of antiviral therapy. Patients received sofosbuvir-based regimens.

Results: Aminopyrine breath test was available for all 50 patients at baseline. The 120' cumulative dose was directly associated at regression analysis only with albumin levels (P = .001). ABT was available at follow-up week 12 for 41 patients (FUW12), all with SVR, and followed for a median of 25.2 months (range 12.2-32.1 months). Lower Ʌ ABT - defined as changes of 120' cumulative dose from FUW12 to baseline - (HR 0.97, 95% CI 0.94-0.99; P = .02) and FUW12 hepatic encephalopathy (HR 19.0, 95% CI 1.16-310.3; P = .03) were the only independent predictors of liver events/death at multivariate Cox regression analysis. The AUC of Ʌ ABT was good (0.87, 95% CI 0.75-0.97), with a delta ≥0% well discriminating patients at lower vs patients at higher risk of liver-related events/death (P < .001).

Conclusions: In patients with advanced HCV cirrhosis who achieve SVR with DAA, Ʌ ABT assists in assessing the residual likelihood of liver-related events and deaths after viral cure.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.14250DOI Listing
March 2020

STAT5 and STAT5 Inhibitors in Hematological Malignancies.

Anticancer Agents Med Chem 2019 ;19(17):2036-2046

Department of Health Promotion Sciences, Maternal and Infant Care, Internal Medicine and Medical Specialties, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.

The JAK-STAT pathway is an important physiologic regulator of different cellular functions including proliferation, apoptosis, differentiation, and immunological responses. Out of six different STAT proteins, STAT5 plays its main role in hematopoiesis and constitutive STAT5 activation seems to be a key event in the pathogenesis of several hematological malignancies. This has led many researchers to develop compounds capable of inhibiting STAT5 activation or interfering with its functions. Several anti-STAT5 molecules have shown potent STAT5 inhibitory activity in vitro. However, compared to the large amount of clinical studies with JAK inhibitors that are currently widely used in the clinics to treat myeloproliferative disorders, the clinical trials with STAT5 inhibitors are very limited. At present, a few STAT5 inhibitors are in phase I or II clinical trials for the treatment of leukemias and graft vs host disease. These studies seem to indicate that such compounds could be well tolerated and useful in reducing the occurrence of resistance to tyrosine kinase inhibitors in chronic myeloid leukemia. Of interest, STAT5 seems to play an important role in the regulation of hematopoietic stem cell self-renewal suggesting that combination therapies including STAT5 inhibitors can erode the cancer stem cell pool and possibly open the way for the complete cancer eradication. In this review, we discuss the implication of STAT5 in hematological malignancies and the results obtained with the novel STAT5 inhibitors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2174/1871520619666190906160848DOI Listing
August 2020

Association Between PNPLA3 rs738409 C>G Variant and Liver-Related Outcomes in Patients With Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2020 04 13;18(4):935-944.e3. Epub 2019 Aug 13.

Sezione di Gastroenterologia e Epatologia, PROMISE, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) have an increased risk for liver-related complications, such as decompensation, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and death; the severity of liver fibrosis and metabolic comorbidities are the main risk factors. A single nucleotide polymorphism in patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing-3 (PNPLA3) gene is associated with higher prevalence of liver damage and HCC, but there are no data from prospective studies of outcomes of patients with this polymorphism. We investigated whether the common rs738409 variant in PNPLA3 gene associates with the occurrence of liver-related events and death in a large cohort of patients with NAFLD.

Methods: We followed 471 consecutive individuals at a hospital in Italy with a diagnosis of NAFLD based on histologic factors or a diagnosis of compensated NAFLD-related cirrhosis based on clinical factors for at least 6 months, from March 2004 through December 2018. We collected data on the occurrence of hepatic and extrahepatic outcomes, including decompensation and HCC, cardiovascular events and extrahepatic cancers, and overall and liver-related death. We detected the rs738409 G>C polymorphism in DNA from patient blood samples using the TaqMan assay.

Results: During a median follow-up time of 64.6 months (range 6.1-175 months) 26 cases of decompensation, 13 HCCs, and 16 deaths (12 liver-related) were recorded. All liver-related events, including liver-related death, occurred in patients with F3 fibrosis or cirrhosis. The prevalence of PNPLA3 rs738409 GG, GT, and TT genotypes was 31.8%, 45.6%, and 22.6%, respectively. After adjusting for clinical, metabolic, and histologic risk factors, PNPLA3 C>G variant was associated with a higher risk of decompensation (hazard ratio [HR], 2.10; 95% CI, 1.03-4.29; P = .04), HCC (HR, 2.68; 95% CI, 1.01-7.26; P = .04), and liver-related death (HR, 3.64; 95% CI, 1.18-11.2; P = .02) by multivariate Cox regression analysis. In the subgroup of 162 patients with F3 fibrosis or cirrhosis, we confirmed the independent association between the PNPLA3 variant and decompensation (HR, 2.00; 95% CI, 1.01-3.97; P = .04), HCC (HR, 2.66; 95% CI, 1.02-7.13; P = .04), and liver-related death (HR, 3.64, 95% CI, 1.18-11.2; P = .02). We found no association between PNPLA3 genotype and cardiovascular events, extrahepatic cancers, or overall mortality.

Conclusions: Patients with NAFLD carrying PNPLA3 rs738409 G>C variant are at higher risk of liver-related events and death.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2019.08.011DOI Listing
April 2020

NS5A Gene Analysis by Next Generation Sequencing in HCV Nosocomial Transmission Clusters of HCV Genotype 1b Infected Patients.

Cells 2019 07 2;8(7). Epub 2019 Jul 2.

Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, 00133 Rome, Italy.

: The aim of the study was to investigate the intra-host variability through next-generation-sequencing (NGS) of the NS5A-gene in nosocomial transmission-clusters observed in two Italian hospitals among hepatitis C virus (HCV)-genotype-1b infected patients. : HCV-sequencing was performed by Sanger-sequencing (NS3 + NS5A + NS5B) and by NGS (NS5A, MiSeq-Illumina) in 15 HCV-1b infected patients [five acute with onco-hematologic-disease and 10 (4/6 acute/chronic) with β-thalassemia]. Resistance-associated-substitutions (RAS) were analysed by Geno2pheno-algorithm. Nucleotide-sequence-variability (NSV, at 1%, 2%, 5%, 10% and 15% NGS-cutoffs) and Shannon entropy were estimated. Phylogenetic analysis was performed by Mega6-software and Bayesian-analysis. : Phylogenetic analysis showed five transmission-clusters: one involving four HCV-acute onco-hematologic-patients; one involving three HCV-chronic β-thalassemia-patients and three involving both HCV-acute and chronic β-thalassemia-patients. The NS5A-RAS Y93H was found in seven patients, distributed differently among chronic/acute patients involved in the same transmission-clusters, independently from the host-genetic IL-28-polymorphism. The intra-host NSV was higher in chronic-patients versus acute-patients, at all cutoffs analyzed (p < 0.05). Even though Shannon-entropy was higher in chronic-patients, significantly higher values were observed only in chronic β-thalassemia-patients versus acute β-thalassemia-patients (p = 0.01). : In nosocomial HCV transmission-clusters, the intra-host HCV quasispecies divergence in patients with acute-infection was very low in comparison to that in chronic-infection. The NS5A-RAS Y93H was often transmitted and distributed differently within the same transmission-clusters, independently from the IL-28-polymorphism.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cells8070666DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6678654PMC
July 2019

Role of Myeloid-Epithelial-Reproductive Tyrosine Kinase and Macrophage Polarization in the Progression of Atherosclerotic Lesions Associated With Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

Front Pharmacol 2019 29;10:604. Epub 2019 May 29.

Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, University of Florence, Florence, Italy.

Recent lines of evidence highlight the involvement of myeloid-epithelial-reproductive tyrosine kinase (MerTK) in metabolic disease associated with liver damage. MerTK is mainly expressed in anti-inflammatory M2 macrophages where it mediates transcriptional changes including suppression of proinflammatory cytokines and enhancement of inflammatory repressors. MerTK is regulated by metabolic pathways through nuclear sensors including LXRs, PPARs, and RXRs, in response to apoptotic bodies or to other sources of cholesterol. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most serious public health problems worldwide. It is a clinicopathological syndrome closely related to obesity, insulin resistance, and oxidative stress. It includes a spectrum of conditions ranging from simple steatosis, characterized by hepatic fat accumulation with or without inflammation, to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), defined by hepatic fat deposition with hepatocellular damage, inflammation, and accumulating fibrosis. Several studies support an association between NAFLD and the incidence of cardiovascular diseases including atherosclerosis, a major cause of death worldwide. This pathological condition consists in a chronic and progressive inflammatory process in the intimal layer of large- and medium-sized arteries. The complications of advanced atherosclerosis include chronic or acute ischemic damage in the tissue perfused by the affected artery, leading to cellular death. By identifying specific targets influencing lipid metabolism and cardiovascular-related diseases, the present review highlights the role of MerTK in NAFLD-associated atherosclerotic lesions as a potential innovative therapeutic target. Therapeutic advantages might derive from the use of compounds selective for nuclear receptors targeting PPARs rather than LXRs regulating macrophage lipid metabolism and macrophage mediated inflammation, by favoring the expression of MerTK, which mediates an immunoregulatory action with a reduction in inflammation and in atherosclerosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2019.00604DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6548874PMC
May 2019

Serum coding and non-coding RNAs as biomarkers of NAFLD and fibrosis severity.

Liver Int 2019 09 26;39(9):1742-1754. Epub 2019 Jun 26.

Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Internal Medicine, Garibaldi-Nesima Hospital, University of Catania, Catania, Italy.

Background & Aims: In patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), liver biopsy is the gold standard to detect non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and stage liver fibrosis. We aimed to identify differentially expressed mRNAs and non-coding RNAs in serum samples of biopsy-diagnosed mild and severe NAFLD patients with respect to controls and to each other.

Methods: We first performed a whole transcriptome analysis through microarray (n = 12: four Control: CTRL; four mild NAFLD: NAS ≤ 4 F0; four severe NAFLD NAS ≥ 5 F3), followed by validation of selected transcripts through real-time PCRs in an independent internal cohort of 88 subjects (63 NAFLD, 25 CTRL) and in an external cohort of 50 NAFLD patients. A similar analysis was also performed on liver biopsies and HepG2 cells exposed to oleate:palmitate or only palmitate (cellular model of NAFL/NASH) at intracellular/extracellular levels. Transcript correlation with histological/clinical data was also analysed.

Results: We identified several differentially expressed coding/non-coding RNAs in each group of the study cohort. We validated the up-regulation of UBE2V1, BNIP3L mRNAs, RP11-128N14.5 lncRNA, TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 coding/lncRNA in patients with NAS ≥ 5 (vs NAS ≤ 4) and the up-regulation of HBA2 mRNA, TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 coding/lncRNA in patients with Fibrosis stages = 3-4 (vs F = 0-2). In in vitro models: UBE2V1, RP11-128N14.5 and TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 had an increasing expression trend ranging from CTRL to oleate:palmitate or only palmitate-treated cells both at intracellular and extracellular level, while BNIP3L was up-regulated only at extracellular level. UBE2V1, RP11-128N14.5, TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 and HBA2 up-regulation was also observed at histological level. UBE2V1, RP11-128N14.5, BNIP3L and TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 correlated with histological/biochemical data. Combinations of TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 + Fibrosis Index based on the four factors (FIB-4) showed an Area Under the Curve (AUC) of 0.891 (P = 3.00E-06) or TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 + Fibroscan (AUC = 0.892, P = 2.00E-06) improved the detection of F = 3-4 with respect to F = 0-2 fibrosis stages.

Conclusions: We identified specific serum coding/non-coding RNA profiles in severe and mild NAFLD patients that possibly mirror the molecular mechanisms underlying NAFLD progression towards NASH/fibrosis. TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 detection improves FIB-4/Fibroscan diagnostic performance for advanced fibrosis discrimination.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.14167DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6771597PMC
September 2019

Protein phosphatase 1 regulatory subunit 3B gene variation protects against hepatic fat accumulation and fibrosis in individuals at high risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Hepatol Commun 2018 Jun 25;2(6):666-675. Epub 2018 Apr 25.

Internal Medicine and Metabolic Diseases Fondazione IRCCS C'a Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico Milano Italy.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a major cause of liver damage and has a strong genetic component. The rs4841132 G>A variant, modulating the expression of protein phosphatase 1 regulatory subunit 3B (), which is involved in glycogen synthesis, has been reported to reduce the risk of NAFLD but at the same time may favor liver disease by facilitating glycogen accumulation. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of rs4841132 on development of histologic steatosis and fibrosis in 1,388 European individuals in a liver biopsy cohort, on NAFLD hepatocellular carcinoma in a cross-sectional Italian cohort (n = 132 cases), and on liver disease at the population level in the United Kingdom Biobank cohort. We investigated the underlying mechanism by examining the impact of the variant on gene expression profiles. In the liver biopsy cohort, the rs4841132 minor A allele was associated with protection against steatosis (odds ratio [OR], 0.63; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.42-0.95; 0.03) and clinically significant fibrosis (OR, 0.35; 95% CI, 0.14-0.87; 0.02) and with reduced circulating cholesterol ( 0.02). This translated into protection against hepatocellular carcinoma development (OR, 0.22; 95% CI, 0.07-0.70; 0.01). At the population level, the rs4841132 variation was not associated with nonalcoholic or nonviral diseases of the liver but was associated with lower cholesterol ( 1.7 × 10). In individuals with obesity, the A allele protecting against steatosis was associated with increased messenger RNA expression and activation of lipid oxidation and with down-regulation of pathways related to lipid metabolism, inflammation, and cell cycle. : The rs4841132 A allele is associated with protection against hepatic steatosis and fibrosis in individuals at high risk of NAFLD but not in the general population and against dyslipidemia. The mechanism may be related to modulation of expression and hepatic lipid metabolism. ( 2018;2:666-675).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep4.1192DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5983109PMC
June 2018

Prevalence and severity of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease by transient elastography: Genetic and metabolic risk factors in a general population.

Liver Int 2018 11 7;38(11):2060-2068. Epub 2018 May 7.

Unit of Malattie Endocrine, del Ricambio e della Nutrizione AOU Policlinico "P. Giaccone", Palermo, Italy.

Background & Aims: The worldwide spread of obesity is leading to a dramatic increase in the prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its complications. We aimed to evaluate both prevalence and factors associated with NAFLD in a general population in a Mediterranean area.

Methods: We considered 890 consecutive individuals included in the community-based ABCD (Alimentazione, Benessere Cardiovascolare e Diabete) study (ISRCTN15840340). Controlled attenuation parameter (CAP) and liver stiffness measurement (LSM) were measured with FibroScan. Participants were genotyped for PNPLA3 rs738409 and TM6SF2 rs58542926 variants.

Results: The prevalence of NAFLD in the cohort was 48%. NAFLD participants exhibited elevated LSM values, suggesting advanced fibrosis (6.5% of cases). Both NAFLD and advanced fibrosis were independently associated with traditional risk factors (NAFLD: age >50 years, obesity, hypertension, elevated ALT and low HDL-cholesterol serum concentrations. Advanced fibrosis: IFG/diabetes, elevated ALT serum concentrations). A high prevalence (>60%) of NAFLD was found in obese people, while it varied widely in non-obese people according to the presence of metabolic risk factors. PNPLA3 G variant (OR = 1.33, 95% C.I. = 1.01-1.8; P < .05) was independently associated with NAFLD. Prevalence of advanced fibrosis (high LSM values) ranged from 3.4% (no risk factors) to 60% (presence of all risk factors). TM6SF2 T variant (OR = 3.06, 95% C.I. = 1.08-8.65, P < .05) was independently associated with advanced fibrosis (high LSM values).

Conclusions: In a cohort of a general population, the prevalence of NAFLD was very high, and among NAFLD patients a significant proportion had advanced fibrosis (high LSM values). Apart from traditional risk factors, genetic factors may have a significant role that needs to be further investigated.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.13743DOI Listing
November 2018

Hepatitis C virus eradication by direct-acting antiviral agents improves carotid atherosclerosis in patients with severe liver fibrosis.

J Hepatol 2018 07 2;69(1):18-24. Epub 2018 Mar 2.

Sezione di Gastroenterologia e Epatologia, Di.Bi.M.I.S, Università di Palermo, Italy.

Background And Aims: Recent studies suggest an association between hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and cardiovascular damage, including carotid atherosclerosis, with a possible effect of HCV clearance on cardiovascular outcomes. We aimed to examine whether HCV eradication by direct-acting antiviral agents (DAA) improves carotid atherosclerosis in HCV-infected patients with advanced fibrosis/compensated cirrhosis.

Materials And Methods: One hundred eighty-two consecutive patients with HCV and advanced fibrosis or compensated cirrhosis were evaluated. All patients underwent DAA-based antiviral therapy according to AISF/EASL guidelines. Intima-media thickness (IMT), carotid thickening (IMT ≥1 mm) and carotid plaques, defined as focal thickening of ≥1.5 mm at the level of the common carotid, were evaluated by ultrasonography (US) at baseline and 9-12 months after the end of therapy. Fifty-six percent of patients were male, mean age 63.1 ± 10.4 years, and 65.9% had compensated cirrhosis. One in five had diabetes, 14.3% were obese, 41.8% had arterial hypertension and 35.2% were smokers. At baseline, mean IMT was 0.94 ± 0.29 mm, 42.8% had IMT ≥1 mm, and 42.8% had carotid plaques.

Results: All patients achieved a 12-week sustained virological response. IMT significantly decreased from baseline to follow-up (0.94 ± 0.29 mm vs. 0.81 ± 0.27, p <0.001). Consistently, a significant reduction in the prevalence of patients with carotid thickening from baseline to follow-up was observed (42.8% vs. 17%, p <0.001), while no changes were reported for carotid plaques (42.8% vs. 47.8%, p = 0.34). These results were confirmed in subgroups of patients stratified for cardiovascular risk factors and liver disease severity.

Conclusion: HCV eradication by DAA improves carotid atherosclerosis in patients with severe fibrosis with or without additional metabolic risk factors. The impact of this improvement in the atherosclerotic burden in terms of reduction of major cardiovascular outcomes is worth investigating in the long term.

Lay Summary: Hepatitis C virus eradication by direct-acting antiviral agents improves carotid atherosclerosis in patients with advanced fibrosis/compensated cirrhosis. The improvement in intima-media thickness and carotid thickening was confirmed after stratification for severity of liver disease and cardiovascular risk factors. Hepatitis C virus eradication by direct-acting antiviral agents also lead to improvement in glucose homeostasis and increased cholesterol levels.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2018.02.015DOI Listing
July 2018

Interferon lambda 4 rs368234815 TT>δG variant is associated with liver damage in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Hepatology 2017 12 6;66(6):1885-1893. Epub 2017 Nov 6.

Sezione di Gastroenterologia e Epatologia, DiBiMIS, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.

The interferon (IFN) lambda 3/4 (IFNL3/4) locus, influencing innate immunity regulation, has been associated with the severity of hepatitis and fibrosis progression during chronic hepatitis C infection, while contrasting results were reported in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. In this study, we examined whether rs12979860 and the linked causal rs368234815 variant encoding for the alternative IFNL4 protein variant are associated with liver fibrosis and damage in a large multicenter cohort of patients at risk of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. To clarify the mechanism, we also evaluated the impact on IFN-stimulated gene hepatic expression in a subset of patients. We considered 946 consecutive Italian individuals at risk of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis with liver histology evaluated according to Kleiner. The rs368234815 TT>δG, rs12979860 C>T, and patatin-like phospholipase-3 rs738409 C>G polymorphisms were genotyped; and IFN-stimulated gene hepatic expression (n = 16) was tested by TaqMan assays. We found that the rs368234815 TT allele was independently associated with severe F3-F4 fibrosis (odds ratio, 1.53; 95% confidence interval, 1.15-2.31; P = 0.005) and with severe (grade 2-3) lobular necroinflammation (odds ratio, 1.47; 95% confidence interval, 1.14-1.88; P = 0.002). The impact of rs368234815 on liver damage was generally more marked in nonobese individuals, where association with severe fibrosis, necroinflammation, and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis was observed (P < 0.05). IFN-stimulated genes were hypo-expressed in the liver of patients carrying the IFNL4 rs368234815 TT/TT genotype (P < 0.05). Similar results were observed when considering the rs12979860 polymorphism, which was in high linkage disequilibrium with rs368234815 (R = 0.87).

Conclusion: The IFNL4 genotype is associated with severity of fibrosis in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients of European ancestry, likely by modulating the activation of innate immunity and necroinflammation. (Hepatology 2017;66:1885-1893).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.29395DOI Listing
December 2017

Telomerase reverse transcriptase germline mutations and hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Cancer Med 2017 Aug 4;6(8):1930-1940. Epub 2017 Jul 4.

Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, Università degli Studi di Milano, Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, 20122, Italy.

In an increasing proportion of cases, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) develops in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Mutations in telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) are associated with familial liver diseases. The aim of this study was to examine telomere length and germline hTERT mutations as associated with NAFLD-HCC. In 40 patients with NAFLD-HCC, 45 with NAFLD-cirrhosis and 64 healthy controls, peripheral blood telomere length was evaluated by qRT-PCR and hTERT coding regions and intron-exon boundaries sequenced. We further analyzed 78 patients affected by primary liver cancer (NAFLD-PLC, 76 with HCC). Enrichment of rare coding mutations (allelic frequency <0.001) was evaluated by Burden test. Functional consequences were estimated in silico and by over-expressing protein variants in HEK-293 cells. We found that telomere length was reduced in individuals with NAFLD-HCC versus those with cirrhosis (P = 0.048) and healthy controls (P = 0.0006), independently of age and sex. We detected an enrichment of hTERT mutations in NAFLD-HCC, that was confirmed when we further considered a larger cohort of NAFLD-PLC, and was more marked in female patients (P = 0.03). No mutations were found in cirrhosis and local controls, and only one in 503 healthy Europeans from the 1000 Genomes Project (allelic frequency = 0.025 vs. <0.001; P = 0.0005). Mutations with predicted functional impact, including the frameshift Glu113Argfs*79 and missense Glu668Asp, cosegregated with liver disease in two families. Three patients carried missense mutations (Ala67Val in homozygosity, Pro193Leu and His296Pro in heterozygosity) in the N-terminal template-binding domain (P = 0.037 for specific enrichment). Besides Glu668Asp, the Ala67Val variant resulted in reduced intracellular protein levels. In conclusion, we detected an association between shorter telomeres in peripheral blood and rare germline hTERT mutations and NAFLD-HCC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cam4.1078DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5548883PMC
August 2017

MBOAT7 rs641738 variant and hepatocellular carcinoma in non-cirrhotic individuals.

Sci Rep 2017 07 3;7(1):4492. Epub 2017 Jul 3.

Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, Università degli Studi di Milano, 20122, Milano, Italy.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) represents an emerging cause of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), especially in non-cirrhotic individuals. The rs641738 C > T MBOAT7/TMC4 variant predisposes to progressive NAFLD, but the impact on hepatic carcinogenesis is unknown. In Italian NAFLD patients, the rs641738 T allele was associated with NAFLD-HCC (OR 1.65, 1.08-2.55; n = 765), particularly in those without advanced fibrosis (p < 0.001). The risk T allele was linked to 3'-UTR variation in MBOAT7 and to reduced MBOAT7 expression in patients without severe fibrosis. The number of PNPLA3, TM6SF2, and MBOAT7 risk variants was associated with NAFLD-HCC independently of clinical factors (p < 0.001), but did not significantly improve their predictive accuracy. When combining data from an independent UK NAFLD cohort, in the overall cohort of non-cirrhotic patients (n = 913, 41 with HCC) the T allele remained associated with HCC (OR 2.10, 1.33-3.31). Finally, in a combined cohort of non-cirrhotic patients with chronic hepatitis C or alcoholic liver disease (n = 1121), the T allele was independently associated with HCC risk (OR 1.93, 1.07-3.58). In conclusion, the MBOAT7 rs641738 T allele is associated with reduced MBOAT7 expression and may predispose to HCC in patients without cirrhosis, suggesting it should be evaluated in future prospective studies aimed at stratifying NAFLD-HCC risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-04991-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5495751PMC
July 2017

Effects of Pimozide Derivatives on pSTAT5 in K562 Cells.

ChemMedChem 2017 08 19;12(15):1183-1190. Epub 2017 Jul 19.

Dipartimento di Scienze per la Promozione della Salute e Materno Infantile, Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca in Oncologia Clinica, Università di Palermo, via del Vespro 129, 902127, Palermo, Italy.

STAT5 is a transcription factor, a member of the STAT family of signaling proteins. STAT5 is involved in many types of cancer, including chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), in which this protein is found constitutively activated as a consequence of BCR-ABL expression. The neuroleptic drug pimozide was recently reported to act as an inhibitor of STAT5 phosphorylation and is capable of inducing apoptosis in CML cells in vitro. Our research group has synthesized simple derivatives of pimozide with cytotoxic activity and that are able to decrease the levels of phosphorylated STAT5. In this work we continued the search for novel STAT5 inhibitors, synthesizing compounds in which the benzoimidazolinone ring of pimozide is either maintained or modified, in order to obtain further structure-activity relationship information for this class of STAT5 inhibitors. Two compounds of the series showed potent cytotoxic activity against BCR-ABL-positive and pSTAT5-overexpressing K562 cells and were able to markedly decrease the levels of phosphorylated STAT5.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cmdc.201700234DOI Listing
August 2017

Fibronectin Type III Domain-Containing Protein 5 rs3480 A>G Polymorphism, Irisin, and Liver Fibrosis in Patients With Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2017 08;102(8):2660-2669

Section of Gastroenterology, Di.Bi.M.I.S., University of Palermo, 90100 Palermo, Italy.

Context: Contrasting data have been reported on the role of irisin, a novel myokine encoded by the fibronectin type III domain-containing protein 5 (FNDC5) gene, in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) pathogenesis. We tested in patients with suspected nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) the association of FNDC5 variants, hepatic expression, and circulating irisin with liver damage (F2 to F4 fibrosis as main outcome). We also investigated whether irisin modulates hepatocellular fat accumulation and stellate cell activation in experimental models.

Methods: We considered 593 consecutive patients who underwent liver biopsy for suspected NASH and 192 patients with normal liver enzymes and without steatosis. FNDC5 rs3480 and rs726344 genotypes were assessed by 5' nuclease assays. Hepatic irisin expression was evaluated in mice fed a high-fat diet or treated with CCl4. The effect of irisin was evaluated in fat-laden HepG2 hepatocytes and in hepatic stellate cells (HSCs).

Results: In patients at risk for NASH [odds ratio (OR) = 0.64, 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.47 to 0.87; P = 0.005], and more so in the high-risk subgroup of those with impaired fasting glucose/diabetes (OR = 0.44, 95% CI, 0.26 to 0.74; P = 0.002), the rs3480 A>G variant was independently associated with protection from F2 to F4 fibrosis. Irisin is expressed in human activated HSC, where it mediated fibrogenic actions and collagen synthesis, and is overexpressed in NAFLD patients with F2 to F4 fibrosis and CCl4-treated mice. However, Irisin does not affect fat accumulation in HepG2 and is not induced by high-fat-diet-inducing NAFLD.

Conclusions: The FNDC5 rs3480 variant is associated with protection from clinically significant fibrosis in patients with NAFLD, while irisin expression is correlated with the severity of NAFLD and may be involved in extracellular matrix deposition. These data suggest that irisin is involved in regulation of hepatic fibrogenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2017-00056DOI Listing
August 2017

Clinical Course and Genetic Susceptibility of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis: Analysis of a Prospective Cohort.

Hepat Mon 2016 Nov 16;16(11):e31681. Epub 2016 Oct 16.

Sezione di Gastroenterologia ed Epatologia, Dipartimento Biomedico di Medicina Interna e Specialistica, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.

Background: Natural history of primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is partially characterized in patients from the Mediterranean area whose genetic background differs from that of Northern Europeans.

Objectives: We aimed to describe genetic susceptibility and clinical course of PBC in patients from Southern Italy.

Methods: Socio-demographic, clinical, biochemical and histological data at diagnosis as well as disease progression of 81 PBC consecutive patients were collected. All subjects were treated with Ursodeoxycholic acid at a dose of 15 mg/kg. HLA class II DRB1 alleles were compared with those of 237 healthy control subjects. IL28B genotyping for IL28B rs12979860 C/T and rs80899917 G/T was performed in a sub-group of patients.

Results: HLA-DRB1*07 (RR 5.3, P = 0.0008) and HLA-DRB1*08 (RR n.c. P = 0.0005) were significantly associated with the risk of PBC development. Patients younger than 45 years had significantly higher alanine aminotransferase (P = 0.038) and alkaline phosphatase levels (P = 0.047) than older cases. In comparison to non-CC rs12979860, patients with CC rs12979860 genotype showed an early histological stage at onset (93.8% vs. 62.5%, P = 0.03). After a mean follow-up of 61 months, three patients died, one underwent liver transplantation and sixteen (21.9%) had progression of the disease. At multivariate analysis, extrahepatic autoimmune disease (P = 0.04), pruritus (P = 0.008) and advanced histological stage (P < 0.0001) were independent risk factors for disease progression.

Conclusions: HLA-DRB1*07 and HLA-DRB1*08 alleles increase susceptibility to disease development. At onset, higher biochemical activity was observed in younger patients, whereas rs12979860 CC genotype was associated with milder histological stage. Pruritus and coexistence of extrahepatic autoimmune diseases were significantly associated with poorer prognosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.5812/hepatmon.31681DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5203613PMC
November 2016

Effects of Eradicating Hepatitis C Virus Infection in Patients With Cirrhosis Differ With Stage of Portal Hypertension.

Gastroenterology 2016 07 1;151(1):130-139.e2. Epub 2016 Apr 1.

Sezione di Gastroenterologia e Epatologia, Dipartimento Biomedico di Medicina Interna e Specialistica, University of Palermo, Italy.

Background & Aims: Clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) via antiviral treatment changes the course of liver disease. We evaluated the benefit of sustained virologic response (SVR) in patients with HCV and cirrhosis without (stage 1) and with (stage 2) esophageal varices (EV).

Methods: We performed a prospective cohort study of 444 patients with HCV and compensated cirrhosis (218 with stage 1 and 226 with stage 2 disease) treated with peg-interferon and ribavirin from June 2001 through December 2009 at the University of Palermo, Italy and followed for a median of 7.6 years (range, 1-12.6 years). We used Cox regression analysis to identify variables associated with appearance or progression of EVs, development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), liver decompensation, and overall survival.

Results: In the intention-to-treat analysis, 67 patients with stage 1 disease (30.7%) and 41 patients with stage 2 disease (18.1%) achieved an SVR (P = .003). Patients with stage 1 disease and an SVR were less likely to develop EVs than stage 1 patients without an SVR (hazard ratio [HR], 0.23; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.11-0.48; P < .001). However, SVR did not affect whether patients with stage 2 disease developed further EVs (HR, 1.58; 95% CI, 0.33-1.03; P = .07, by log-rank test). An SVR was associated with lower risk for HCC (HR, 0.25; 95% CI, 0.12-0.55; P < .001). Patients with stage 2 disease, regardless of SVR, were at greater risk than patients with stage 1 disease for liver decompensation (HR, 2.82; 95% CI, 1.73-4.59; P < .001) or death (HR, 1.77; 95% CI, 1.12-2.80; P = .015). A lower proportion of patients with stage 1 disease and an SVR died from HCC (2.9%), compared with those without an SVR (11.9%) (P = .03) or developed liver decompensation (none vs 7.1% without an SVR; P = .009). A lower proportion of patients with stage 2 disease and an SVR died from causes secondary to HCC (2.0%) compared with those without an SVR (18.4%) (P = .003). Death from causes secondary to liver decompensation did not differ significantly between patients with stage 2 disease with or without an SVR (12.1% vs 25.4%; P = .15).

Conclusions: In a prospective study of 444 patients with HCV and compensated cirrhosis, HCV eradication reduced risk for liver decompensation, HCC, and death, regardless of whether the patients had EVs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2016.03.036DOI Listing
July 2016

Novel iodoacetamido benzoheterocyclic derivatives with potent antileukemic activity are inhibitors of STAT5 phosphorylation.

Eur J Med Chem 2016 Jan 27;108:39-52. Epub 2015 Nov 27.

Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca in Oncologia Clinica e Dipartimento Biomedico di Medicina Interna e Specialistica, Sezione di Malattie Infettive, Università di Palermo, 90125 Palermo, Italy.

Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription 5 (STAT5) protein, a component of the STAT family of signaling proteins, is considered to be an attractive therapeutic target because of its involvement in the progression of acute myeloid leukemia. In an effort to discover potent molecules able to inhibit the phosphorylation-activation of STAT5, twenty-two compounds were synthesized and evaluated on the basis of our knowledge of the activity of 2-(3',4',5'-trimethoxybenzoyl)-3-iodoacetamido-6-methoxy benzo[b]furan derivative 1 as a potent STAT5 inhibitor. Most of these molecules, structurally related to compound 1, were characterized by the presence of a common 3',4',5'-trimethoxybenzoyl moiety at the 2-position of different benzoheterocycles such as benzo[b]furan, benzo[b]thiophene, indole and N-methylindole. Effects on biological activity of the iodoacetamido group and of different moieties (methyl and methoxy) at the C-3 to C-7 positions were examined. In the series of benzo[b]furan derivatives, moving the iodoacetylamino group from the C-4 to the C-5 or C-6 positions did not significantly affect antiproliferative activity. Compounds 4, 15, 20 and 23 blocked STAT5 signals and induced apoptosis of K562 BCR-ABL positive cells. For compound 23, the trimethoxybenzoyl moiety at the 2-position of the benzo[b]furan core was not essential for potent inhibition of STAT5 activation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmech.2015.11.022DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4724257PMC
January 2016

MERTK rs4374383 polymorphism affects the severity of fibrosis in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

J Hepatol 2016 Mar 24;64(3):682-90. Epub 2015 Oct 24.

Sezione di Gastroenterologia, DiBiMIS, University of Palermo, Italy.

Background & Aim: Homozygosity for a common non-coding rs4374383 G>A polymorphism in MERTK (myeloid-epithelial-reproductive tyrosine kinase) has been associated with the protection against fibrosis progression in chronic hepatitis C. The main study objective was to assess whether MERTK AA genotype influences liver fibrosis, and secondarily MERTK expression in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We also investigated whether MERTK is expressed in human hepatic stellate cells (HSC) and in murine models of fibrogenesis.

Methods: We considered 533 consecutive patients who underwent liver biopsy for suspected non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) without severe obesity from two Italian cohorts. As controls, we evaluated 158 patients with normal liver enzymes and without metabolic disturbances. MERTK rs4374383 genotype was assessed by 5'-nuclease assays. MERTK expression was analysed in mouse models of fibrosis, and the effect of the MERTK ligand GAS6 were investigated in human HSC.

Results: Clinically significant fibrosis (stage F2-F4) was observed in 19% of patients with MERTK AA compared to 30% in those with MERTK GG/GA (OR 0.43, CI 0.21-0.88, p=0.02; adjusted for centre, and genetic, clinical-metabolic and histological variables). The protective rs4374383 AA genotype was associated with lower MERTK hepatic expression. MERTK was overexpressed in the liver of NAFLD patients with F2-F4 fibrosis and in in vivo models of fibrogenesis. Furthermore, exposure of cultured human HSC to the MERTK ligand GAS6, increased cell migration and induced procollagen expression. These effects were counteracted by inhibition of MERTK activity, which also resulted in apoptotic death of HSC.

Conclusions: The rs4374383 AA genotype, associated with lower intrahepatic expression of MERTK, is protective against F2-F4 fibrosis in patients with NAFLD. The mechanism may involve modulation of HSC activation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2015.10.016DOI Listing
March 2016

TM6SF2 rs58542926 is not associated with steatosis and fibrosis in large cohort of patients with genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C.

Liver Int 2016 Feb 8;36(2):198-204. Epub 2015 Aug 8.

Section of Gastroenterology, Di.Bi.M.I.S., University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy.

Background & Aims: We tested the putative association of the rs58542926 variant of TM6SF2, a recently described genetic determinant of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, with steatosis and fibrosis in genotype 1(G1) chronic hepatitis C(CHC) patients.

Methods: A total of 694 consecutively biopsied Caucasian G1 CHC patients were genotyped for TM6SF2 rs58542926, IL28B rs12979860 and PNPLA3 rs738409. Steatosis was classified as absent (<5%), mild-moderate(5-29%) and severe(≥30%), Fibrosis was considered severe if=F3-F4.

Results: Carriers of TM6SF2 rs58542926 (6.3% of patients) exhibited lower serum levels of cholesterol (P = 0.04) and triglycerides (P = 0.01), but a similar distribution of steatosis severity (P = 0.63), compared to noncarriers. Prevalence and severity of steatosis were reduced in IL28B C allele carriers (P = 0.005) and elevated in PNPLA3 G allele carriers (P < 0.001). After adjustment for age, gender, body mass index and homoeostasis model assessment score, steatosis severity was independently associated with IL28B rs12979860 (odds ratio [OR] 0.69, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.55-0.86, P = 0.001) and PNPLA3 rs738409 (OR 1.84, 95% CI 1.46-2.83, P < 0.001), but not TM6SF2 rs58542926 (OR 1.48, 95% CI 0.82-2.69, P = 0.19). Variants of TM6SF2 (30.9% vs. 25%, P = 0.40), IL28B and PNPLA3 were not directly associated with fibrosis severity, although variants of IL28B and PNPLA3 promoted steatosis (OR 1.36, 95% CI 1.06-1.75, P = 0.01) that in turn is associated with severe fibrosis.

Conclusions: In G1 CHC patients, TM6SF2 rs58542926 does not affect the histological severity of liver damage. However, IL28B rs12979860 and PNPLA3 rs738409 modify steatosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.12918DOI Listing
February 2016

Statin use and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis in at risk individuals.

J Hepatol 2015 Sep 14;63(3):705-12. Epub 2015 May 14.

Internal Medicine, Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Policlinico Milano, Milan, Italy; Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation (R.R., S.F., L.V.), Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Excess hepatic free cholesterol contributes to the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, and statins reduce cholesterol synthesis. Aim of this study was to assess whether statin use is associated with histological liver damage related to steatohepatitis.

Methods: The relationship between statin use, genetic risk factors, and liver damage was assessed in a multi-center cohort of 1201 European individuals, who underwent liver biopsy for suspected non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

Results: Statin use was recorded in 107 subjects, and was associated with protection from steatosis, NASH, and fibrosis stage F2-F4, in a dose-dependent manner (adjusted p<0.05 for all). In 100 treated patients matched 1:1 for modality of recruitment, gender, presence of IFG or type 2 diabetes, PNPLA3 I148M risk alleles, TM6SF2 E167K variant, age, and BMI, statin use remained associated with protection from steatosis (OR 0.09, 95% C.I. 0.01-0.32; p=0.004), steatohepatitis (OR 0.25, 95% C.I. 0.13-0.47; p<0.001), and fibrosis stage F2-F4 (OR 0.42, 95% C.I. 0.20-0.8; p=0.017). Results were confirmed in a second analysis, where individuals were matched within recruitment center (p<0.05 for all). The protective effect of statins on steatohepatitis was stronger in subjects not carrying the I148M PNPLA3 risk variant (p=0.02 for interaction), as statins were negatively associated with steatohepatitis in patients negative (p<0.001), but not in those positive for the I148M variant (p=n.s.).

Conclusions: Statin use was associated with protection towards the full spectrum of liver damage in individuals at risk of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. However, the I148M PNPLA3 risk variant limited this beneficial effect.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2015.05.006DOI Listing
September 2015

Synthesis and antiproliferative activity of 3-(2-chloroethyl)-5-methyl-6-phenyl-8-(trifluoromethyl)-5,6-dihydropyrazolo[3,4-f][1,2,3,5]tetrazepin-4-(3H)-one.

Eur J Med Chem 2015 6;96:98-104. Epub 2015 Apr 6.

Dipartimento di Scienze e Tecnologie Biologiche, Chimiche e Farmaceutiche, Università degli Studi di Palermo, Via Archirafi 32, 90123 Palermo, Italy.

Based on the encouraging results found for 3,5-dimethyl-6-phenyl-8-(trifluoromethyl)-5,6-dihydropyrazolo[3,4-f][1,2,3,5]tetrazepin-4-(3H)-one 7 previously tested by us, as well as the consideration that heterocycle fused tetrazepinones bearing the 2-chloroethyl substituent show a better cytotoxic profile than temozolomide and mitozolomide against human cancer cell lines which express the DNA repair protein O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT), in this paper we report the multistep synthesis and the biological study of 3-(2-chloroethyl)-5-methyl-6-phenyl-8-(trifluoromethyl)-5,6-dihydropyrazolo[3,4-f][1,2,3,5]tetrazepin-4-(3H)-one 10. Like compound 7, it was active on P-glycoprotein expressing cells (MDR) HL60 and on K562 cell line that are resistant to apoptosis induced by different stimuli, showing GI50 values of 14 and 18 μM respectively. As an antiproliferative agent against the above cells compound 10 was about 2.2 times more active than compound 7. Compound 10 was also tested against WiDR cells which are overexpressing the DNA repair protein MGMT, showing a GI50 value of 2.3 μM. Finally, concerning the effect on cell cycle we observed an evident difference between compounds 7 and 10. In fact, compound 7 induces a block of cell cycle in G0-G1, therefore acting as phase-specific drug, in contrast, compound 10 is a not phase-specific agent. Both the compounds are able to increase the apoptotic sub G0-G1 peak of cell cycle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmech.2015.04.004DOI Listing
February 2016

The UCP2 -866 G>A promoter region polymorphism is associated with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.

Liver Int 2015 May 20;35(5):1574-80. Epub 2014 Nov 20.

Department of Pathophysiology and Transplantation, Università degli Studi di Milano, Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Policlinico Milano, Milan, Italy.

Background & Aims: Uncoupling protein 2 - UCP2 - regulates mitochondrial lipid fluxes and reactive oxygen species production by the respiratory chain. The -866 G>A UCP2 promoter region polymorphism has been linked to insulin resistance and lipid metabolism. The aim of this study was to assess whether the -866 G>A UCP2 polymorphism predisposes to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in patients at risk, and the relationship with lipid metabolism and hepatic UCP2 expression.

Methods: We considered 688 Italian patients who underwent liver biopsy for suspected NASH, and 232 healthy controls. The UCP2 -866 G>A polymorphism was determined by allele specific oligonucleotide probes, hepatic UCP2 mRNA levels by quantitative real-time PCR.

Results: UCP2 A/A genotype was associated with a reduced risk of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (Odds Ratio 0.49, 95% C.I. 0.26-0.90; P = 0.02; adjusted for age, sex, BMI, impaired fasting glucose or diabetes, PNPLA3 I148M alleles and recruitment centre). The A/A genotype was associated with reduced risk of steatosis grade G2-G3 and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in patients without (P = 0.003 and P = 0.01 respectively), but not in those with (P = NS) impaired fasting glucose/diabetes. The UCP2 A/A genotype was associated with higher hepatic UCP2 mRNA levels (adjusted P = 0.008). Concerning the metabolic traits, the UCP2 A/A genotype was associated with higher total serum cholesterol levels (adjusted P = 0.03), but not with serum HDL, triglycerides or impaired fasting glucose/diabetes.

Conclusions: UCP2 -866 A/A genotype is associated with increased hepatic UCP2 expression and reduced risk of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, particularly in subjects with normal fasting glucose.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.12707DOI Listing
May 2015

The hepatic expression of vitamin D receptor is inversely associated with the severity of liver damage in genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C patients.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2015 Jan;100(1):193-200

Sezione di Gastroenterologia (S.P., S.G., A.D.C., F.S.M., M.G.M., A.C.), Dipartimento Biomedico di Medicina Interna e Specialistica, Cattedra di Anatomia Patologica (C.T., D.C., M.C., C.G.), University of Palermo, 90127 Palermo, Italy; and Dipartimento di Medicina e Gastroenterologia (G.M.), "Alma Mater Studiorum," Università di Bologna, 40126 Bologna, Italy.

Background/aims: Low 25-hydroxyvitamin D serum levels have been associated with the severity of liver fibrosis in genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C patients (G1CHC), and experimental evidence suggested a hepatoprotective role of vitamin D via interaction with hepatic vitamin D receptor (VDR). We assessed the hepatic expression of VDR protein and its association with liver disease severity.

Methods: Ninety-one consecutive patients with biopsy-proven G1CHC and available frozen liver tissue were evaluated. Ten subjects without chronic liver diseases and nine patients with autoimmune hepatitis served as controls. The hepatic expression of VDR protein was assessed by Western blot for quantification and by immunohistochemistry for morphological distribution.

Results: Liver VDR protein was mainly localized in hepatocytes and cholangiocytes, and its expression by a Western blot was similar in chronic hepatitis C (CHC) and controls (1.83 ± 0.97 vs 2.18 ± 0.62, P = .14) but was lower in autoimmune hepatitis (0.84 ± 0.14, P < .001). The expression was lower in CHC with severe necroinflammatory activity (1.44 ± 0.87) vs both controls and CHC with grade 1-2 inflammation (1.94 ± 0.97, P = .01 and P = .03, respectively) but higher compared with autoimmune hepatitis (P = .007). A similar difference was observed in CHC patients with F3-F4 fibrosis whose VDR expression (1.51 ± 1.07) was also lower compared with controls and CHC with F0-F2 fibrosis (1.98 ± 0.89, P = .02 and P = .04, respectively) but higher vs autoimmune hepatitis (P = .003). At multivariate logistic regression analysis, low VDR protein expression remained associated with severe necroinflammatory activity and severe fibrosis (odds ratio 0.543,95% confidence interval 0.288-0.989, P = .04; and odds ratio 0.484,95% confidence interval 0.268-0.877, P = .01, respectively) in CHC after correction for clinical, biochemical, and histological features.

Conclusion: In a cohort of G1CHC patients, the hepatic expression of VDR protein is associated with the severity of both liver fibrosis and inflammation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2014-2741DOI Listing
January 2015