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The search for the Holy Grail: autoantigenic targets in primary sclerosing cholangitis associated with disease phenotype and neoplasia

  • Lopens, Steffi1
  • Krawczyk, Marcin2, 3
  • Papp, Maria4
  • Milkiewicz, Piotr3
  • Schierack, Peter5
  • Liu, Yudong6
  • Wunsch, Ewa7
  • Conrad, Karsten8
  • Roggenbuck, Dirk5, 9
  • 1 Medipan GmbH, Dahlewitz, Germany , Dahlewitz (Germany)
  • 2 Saarland University Hospital, Saarland University, Homburg/Saar, Germany , Homburg/Saar (Germany)
  • 3 Medical University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland , Warsaw (Poland)
  • 4 University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary , Debrecen (Hungary)
  • 5 Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Senftenberg, Germany , Senftenberg (Germany)
  • 6 Peking University People’s Hospital, Beijing, China , Beijing (China)
  • 7 Pomeranian Medical University, Szczecin, Poland , Szczecin (Poland)
  • 8 Technical University Dresden, Dresden, Germany , Dresden (Germany)
  • 9 Joint Faculty of the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, the Brandenburg Medical School Theodor Fontane and the University of Potsdam, Universitätsplatz 1, Senftenberg, 01968, Germany , Senftenberg (Germany)
Published Article
Autoimmunity Highlights
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Mar 16, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s13317-020-00129-x
Springer Nature


Unlike in other autoimmune liver diseases such as autoimmune hepatitis and primary biliary cholangitis, the role and nature of autoantigenic targets in primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a progressive, chronic, immune-mediated, life threatening, genetically predisposed, cholestatic liver illness, is poorly elucidated. Although anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) have been associated with the occurrence of PSC, their corresponding targets have not yet been identified entirely. Genome-wide association studies revealed a significant number of immune-related and even disease-modifying susceptibility loci for PSC. However, these loci did not allow discerning a clear autoimmune pattern nor do the therapy options and the male gender preponderance in PSC support a pathogenic role of autoimmune responses. Nevertheless, PSC is characterized by the co-occurrence of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) demonstrating autoimmune responses. The identification of novel autoantigenic targets in IBD such as the major zymogen granule membrane glycoprotein 2 (GP2) or the appearance of proteinase 3 (PR3) autoantibodies (autoAbs) have refocused the interest on a putative association of loss of tolerance with the IBD phenotype and consequently with the PSC phenotype. Not surprisingly, the report of an association between GP2 IgA autoAbs and disease severity in patients with PSC gave a new impetus to autoAb research for autoimmune liver diseases. It might usher in a new era of serological research in this field. The mucosal loss of tolerance against the microbiota-sensing GP2 modulating innate and adaptive intestinal immunity and its putative role in the pathogenesis of PSC will be elaborated in this review. Furthermore, other potential PSC-related autoantigenic targets such as the neutrophil PR3 will be discussed. GP2 IgA may represent a group of new pathogenic antibodies, which share characteristics of both type 2 and 3 of antibody-mediated hypersensitive reactions according to Coombs and Gell.

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