- Department of Hepatology and Gastroenterology, Campus Virchow Klinikum, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, 13353 Berlin, Germany.
- Division of Hepatology, Department of Medicine II, Leipzig University Medical Center, 04103 Leipzig, Germany.
- Department of Internal Medicine II, University of Tübingen, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.
Background: Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) constitute rare chronic inflammatory biliary diseases which likely comprise genetic, environmental and autoimmune factors. Specific inhibitory (auto-) antibodies against the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor type 3 (mAChR3 auto-ab) may contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic biliary inflammation by modulating mAChR3- mediated signaling.
Aims: The aim of this study was to analyze the prevalence and relevance of inhibitory mAChR3 auto-ab (mAChR3inh+ auto-ab) in a large cohort of PBC patients from two independent tertiary centers in Berlin and Leipzig in comparison to a large PSC cohort. Baseline parameters and response rates to standard treatment with ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) were characterized with respect to the individual mAChR3 auto-ab status.
Methods: In total, the study population comprised 437 PBC patients, 187 PSC patients and 80 healthy controls. Clinical and laboratory baseline characteristics were retrieved from medical records. The response to ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) therapy after 12 months of treatment was available in 176 PBC and 45 PSC patients.
Results: The prevalence of mAChR3inh+ auto-ab was significantly higher among PBC patients (11.2%, 49/437; p = 0.008 vs. healthy controls) and PSC patients (33.6%, 63/187; p < 0.0001 vs. healthy controls) compared to healthy controls (2.5%, 2/80), respectively. PBC patients with mAChR3inh+ auto-ab exhibited significantly higher levels of alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and bilirubin, which constitute established parameters for PBC risk stratification. Moreover, mAChR3inh+ PBC patients tended to show decreased response rates to UDCA therapy compared to PBC patients without mAChR3inh+ auto-ab (mAChR3- PBC). In contrast, PSC patients with mAChR3inh+ auto-ab showed no significant differences in laboratory findings compared to mAChR3 auto-ab negative (mAChR3-) PSC patients.
Conclusion: MAChR3inh+ auto-ab might be involved in the pathogenesis and treatment response of chronic biliary inflammation in patients with PBC but not in patients with PSC.