Patients with various chronic liver diseases frequently have increased body iron stores. Prohepcidin is an easily measurable precursor of hepcidin, which is a key regulator of iron homeostasis. This study investigated the serum prohepcidin levels in patients with various chronic liver diseases with various etiologies.
Serum prohepcidin levels were measured in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CH-C) (n=28), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) (n=24), and alcoholic liver disease (ALD) (n=22), and in healthy controls (n=25) using commercial ELISA. Serum interleukin 6 (IL-6) levels and blood iron indices were also measured.
The serum levels of both prohepcidin and IL-6 were significantly higher in CH-C patients than in healthy controls, and there was a positive correlation between the IL-6 and prohepcidin levels (r=0.505, p=0.020). The prohepcidin levels in ALD patients did not differ from those in controls, despite their significantly elevated IL-6 levels. There was a tendency for a negative correlation between serum prohepcidin levels and transferrin saturation in ALD patients (r=-0.420, p=0.051). Neither prohepcidin nor IL-6 was significantly elevated in the NAFLD group, despite the presence of elevated serum iron and ferritin levels.
The role of prohepcidin may differ in different human liver diseases. In the setting of CH-C, both the serum prohepcidin and IL-6 levels were significantly elevated and were positively correlated with each other.