© 2014 Marfà et al. Early detection of fibrosis progression is of major relevance for the diagnosis and management of patients with liver disease. This study was designed to find non-invasive biomarkers for fibrosis in a clinical context where this process occurs rapidly, HCV-positive patients who underwent liver transplantation (LT). We analyzed 93 LT patients with HCV recurrence, 41 non-LT patients with liver disease showing a fibrosis stage F$1 and 9 patients without HCV recurrence who received antiviral treatment before LT, as control group. Blood obtained from 16 healthy subjects was also analyzed. Serum samples were fractionated by ion exchange chromatography and their proteomic profile was analyzed by SELDI-TOF-MS. Characterization of the peptide of interest was performed by ion chromatography and electrophoresis, followed by tandem mass spectrometry identification. Marked differences were observed between the serum proteome profile of LT patients with early fibrosis recurrence and non-recurrent LT patients. A robust peak intensity located at 5905 m/z was the distinguishing feature of non-recurrent LT patients. However, the same peak was barely detected in recurrent LT patients. Similar results were found when comparing samples of healthy subjects with those of non-LT fibrotic patients, indicating that our findings were not related to either LT or HCV infection. Using tandem mass-spectrometry, we identified the protein peak as a Cterminal fragment of the fibrinogen a chain. Cell culture experiments demonstrated that TGF-β reduces a-fibrinogen mRNA expression and 5905 m/z peak intensity in HepG2 cells, suggesting that TGF-β activity regulates the circulating levels of this protein fragment. In conclusion, we identified a 5.9 kDa C-terminal fragment of the fibrinogen a chain as an early serum biomarker of fibrogenic processes in patients with liver disease.
Marfà, S., Crespo, G., Reichenbach, V., Forns, X., Casals, G., Morales-Ruiz, M., … Jiménez, W. (2014). Lack of a 5.9 kDa peptide C-terminal fragment of fibrinogen α chain precedes fibrosis progression in patients with liver disease. PLoS ONE, 9(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0109254