Circulating soluble cytochrome c in liver disease as a marker of apoptosis

Z. Ben-Ari*, H. Schmilovotz-Weiss, A. Belinki, O. Pappo, J. Sulkes, M. G. Neuman, E. Kaganovsky, B. Kfir, R. Tur-Kaspa, T. Klein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Objectives. To measure levels of soluble cytochrome c, a clinical marker of apoptosis in patients with liver disease; determine whether soluble cytochrome c is derived from the liver; and correlate soluble cytochrome c level with histology and disease activity. Design. Laboratory research study with comparison group. Setting. Liver Institute, at the Rabin Medical Center, Israel, and In Vitro Toxicology Laboratory, Canada. Subjects. A total of 108 patients with liver disease and 30 healthy controls. Interventions. Paired hepatic and portal vein samples were taken via the transjugular vein in patients after liver biopsy and transjugular intrahepatic portacaval shunt, and bile from patients with external biliary drainage. Soluble cytochrome c was measured with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in peripheral blood. Apoptotic cells in liver tissue were identified by morphological criteria and quantitated with the dUTP nick-end-labelling (TUNEL) assay. Main outcome measures. Soluble cytochrome c level by type of liver disease by clinical and histological findings. Results. Soluble cytochrome c concentration (mean 187.1 ± 219.5 ng mL-1) was significantly higher in patients with liver disease than in controls (39.8 ± 35.1 ng mL-1: P = 0.0001), with highest levels in the primary sclerosing cholangitis group (mean 1041.0 ± 2844.8 ng mL-1; P = 0.001). Cytochrome c levels were correlated with serum bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase, creatinine levels, necroinflammatory score and apoptotic index, but not with serum alanine aminotransferase and synthetic liver function tests. In the 16 paired samples, soluble cytochrome c level was higher in the hepatic (mean 267,9 ± 297.0 ng mL-1) than the portal vein (mean 169.2 ± 143.3 ng mL-1), and it was highly detectable in bile (mean 2288.0 ± 4596.0 ng mL-1) (P = 0.001). Untreated patients with chronic viral hepatitis (B and C) had significantly higher levels (mean 282.8 ± 304.3 ng mL-1) than treated patients (77.9 ± 35.8 ng mL-1; P = 0.001). Conclusions. Soluble cytochrome c levels are increased in different types of liver disease. Soluble cytochrome c is probably derived from the liver and secreted into the bile. Levels correlate with the apoptotic index and are affected by antiviral treatment. Soluble cytochrome c may serve as a serum marker of apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-175
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Internal Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2003


  • Apoptosis
  • Cytochrome c
  • Liver disease
  • Soluble


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