J Hepatol 2019 Jun 15;70(6):1214-1221. Epub 2019 Apr 15.
Department of Internal Medicine, Section of Digestive Diseases, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA; Department of Pathology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA. Electronic address:
Background & Aims: Adult patients suffering from liver disease of unknown cause represent an understudied and underserved population. The use of whole-exome sequencing (WES) for the assessment of a broader spectrum of non-oncological diseases, among adults, remains poorly studied. We assessed the utility of WES in the diagnosis and management of adults with unexplained liver disease despite comprehensive evaluation by a hepatologist and with no history of alcohol overuse.
Methods: We performed WES and deep phenotyping of 19 unrelated adult patients with idiopathic liver disease recruited at a tertiary academic health care center in the US.
Results: Analysis of the exome in 19 cases identified 4 monogenic disorders in 5 unrelated adults. Patient 1 suffered for 18 years from devastating complications of undiagnosed type 3 familial partial lipodystrophy due to a deleterious heterozygous variant in PPARG. Molecular diagnosis enabled initiation of leptin replacement therapy with subsequent normalization of liver aminotransferases, amelioration of dyslipidemia, and decreases in daily insulin requirements. Patients 2 and 3 were diagnosed with MDR3 deficiency due to recessive mutations in ABCB4. Patient 4 with a prior diagnosis of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis was found to harbor a mitochondrial disorder due to a homozygous pathogenic variant in NDUFB3; this finding enabled initiation of disease preventive measures including supplementation with antioxidants. Patient 5 is a lean patient with hepatic steatosis of unknown etiology who was found to have a damaging heterozygous variant in APOB.
Conclusions: Genomic analysis yielded an actionable diagnosis in a substantial number (∼25%) of selected adult patients with chronic liver disease of unknown etiology. This study supports the use of WES in the evaluation and management of adults with idiopathic liver disease in clinical practice.
Lay Summary: We performed whole-exome sequencing in 19 adult patients with unexplained liver disease after an unrevealing conventional work-up performed by a hepatologist. In 5 cases, genomic analysis led to a diagnosis and informed treatment and management of the disease. Therefore, we suggest using whole-exome sequencing in the evaluation and management of adults with unexplained liver disease.