Serum miRNA profiles are altered in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis receiving high-dose ursodeoxycholic acid

Jessica T. Hochberg, Aalam Sohal, Priya Handa, Bryan D. Maliken, Take Kyun Kim, Kai Wang, Eric Gochanour, Yu Li, J. Bart Rose, James E. Nelson, Keith D. Lindor, Nicholas F. LaRusso, Kris V. Kowdley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a chronic, progressive cholestatic liver disease that can lead to end-stage liver disease and cholangiocarcinoma. High-dose ursodeoxycholic acid (hd-UDCA, 28–30 mg/kg/day) was evaluated in a previous multicentre, randomised placebo-controlled trial; however, the study was discontinued early because of increased liver-related serious adverse events (SAEs), despite improvement in serum liver biochemical tests. We investigated longitudinal changes in serum miRNA and cytokine profiles over time among patients treated with either hd-UDCA or placebo in this trial as potential biomarkers for PSC and response to hd-UDCA, as well as to understand the toxicity associated with hd-UDCA treatment. Methods: Thirty-eight patients with PSC were enrolled in a multicentred, randomised, double-blinded trial of hd-UDCA vs. placebo. Results: Significant alterations in serum miRNA profiles were found over time in both patients treated with hd-UDCA or placebo. Additionally, there were striking differences between miRNA profiles in patients treated with hd-UDCA compared with placebo. In patients treated with placebo, the changes in concentration of serum miRNAs miR-26a, miR-199b-5p, miR-373, and miR-663 suggest alterations of inflammatory and cell proliferative processes consistent with disease progression. However, patients treated with hd-UDCA exhibited a more pronounced differential expression of serum miRNAs, suggesting that hd-UDCA induces significant cellular miRNA changes and tissue injury. Pathway enrichment analysis for UDCA-associated miRNAs suggested unique dysregulation of cell cycle and inflammatory response pathways. Conclusions: Patients with PSC have distinct miRNAs in the serum and bile, although the implications of these unique patterns have not been studied longitudinally or in relation to adverse events related to hd-UDCA. Our study demonstrates marked changes in miRNA serum profiles with hd-UDCA treatment and suggests mechanisms for the increased liver toxicity with therapy. Impact and implications: Using serum samples from patients with PSC enrolled in a clinical trial comparing hd-UDCA with placebo, our study found distinct miRNA changes in patients with PSC who are treated with hd-UDCA over a period of time. Our study also noted distinct miRNA patterns in patients who developed SAEs during the study period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100729
JournalJHEP Reports
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Biomarker
  • High-dose
  • PSC
  • Serum
  • UDCA
  • miRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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