PLoS ONE (2012-01-01)

Non-coding keratin variants associate with liver fibrosis progression in patients with hemochromatosis.

  • Pavel Strnad,
  • Ozlem Kucukoglu,
  • Mariia Lunova,
  • Nurdan Guldiken,
  • Tim C Lienau,
  • Felix Stickel,
  • M Bishr Omary

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7, no. 3
p. e32669


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Keratins 8 and 18 (K8/K18) are intermediate filament proteins that protect the liver from various forms of injury. Exonic K8/K18 variants associate with adverse outcome in acute liver failure and with liver fibrosis progression in patients with chronic hepatitis C infection or primary biliary cirrhosis. Given the association of K8/K18 variants with end-stage liver disease and progression in several chronic liver disorders, we studied the importance of keratin variants in patients with hemochromatosis.The entire K8/K18 exonic regions were analyzed in 162 hemochromatosis patients carrying homozygous C282Y HFE (hemochromatosis gene) mutations. 234 liver-healthy subjects were used as controls. Exonic regions were PCR-amplified and analyzed using denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography and DNA sequencing. Previously-generated transgenic mice overexpressing K8 G62C were studied for their susceptibility to iron overload. Susceptibility to iron toxicity of primary hepatocytes that express K8 wild-type and G62C was also assessed.We identified amino-acid-altering keratin heterozygous variants in 10 of 162 hemochromatosis patients (6.2%) and non-coding heterozygous variants in 6 additional patients (3.7%). Two novel K8 variants (Q169E/R275W) were found. K8 R341H was the most common amino-acid altering variant (4 patients), and exclusively associated with an intronic KRT8 IVS7+10delC deletion. Intronic, but not amino-acid-altering variants associated with the development of liver fibrosis. In mice, or ex vivo, the K8 G62C variant did not affect iron-accumulation in response to iron-rich diet or the extent of iron-induced hepatocellular injury.In patients with hemochromatosis, intronic but not exonic K8/K18 variants associate with liver fibrosis development.