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Balance between macrophage migration inhibitory factor and sCD74 predicts outcome in patients with acute decompensation of cirrhosis.

JHEP Rep. 2020 Dec 17;3(2):100221. doi: 10.1016/j.jhepr.2020.100221. PMID: 33659891; PMCID: PMC7890204.

Authors/Editors: Wirtz TH, Reuken PA, Jansen C, Fischer P, Bergmann I, Backhaus C, Emontzpohl C, Reißing J, Brandt EF, Koenen MT, Schneider KM, Schierwagen R, Brol MJ, Chang J, Zimmermann HW, Köse-Vogel N, Eggermann T, Kurth I, Stoppe C, Bucala R, Bernhagen J, Praktiknjo M, Stallmach A, Trautwein C, Trebicka J, Bruns T, Berres ML.
Publication Date: 2020

Background & Aims
Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is an inflammatory cytokine and an important regulator of innate immune responses. We hypothesised that serum concentrations of MIF are associated with disease severity and outcome in patients with decompensated cirrhosis and acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF).

Methods
Circulating concentrations of MIF and its soluble receptor CD74 (sCD74) were determined in sera from 292 patients with acute decompensation of cirrhosis defined as new onset or worsening of ascites requiring hospitalisation. Of those, 78 (27%) had ACLF. Short-term mortality was assessed 90 days after inclusion.

Results
Although serum concentrations of MIF and sCD74 did not correlate with liver function parameters or ACLF, higher MIF (optimum cut-off >2.3 ng/ml) and lower concentrations of sCD74 (optimum cut-off <66.5 ng/ml) both indicated poorer 90-day transplant-free survival in univariate analyses (unadjusted hazard ratio [HR] 2.01 [1.26–3.22]; p = 0.004 for MIF; HR 0.59 [0.38–0.92]; p = 0.02 for sCD74) and after adjustment in multivariable models. Higher MIF concentrations correlated with surrogates of systemic inflammation (white blood cells, p = 0.005; C-reactive protein, p = 0.05) and were independent of genetic MIF promoter polymorphisms. Assessment of MIF plasma concentrations in portal venous blood and matched blood samples from the right atrium in a second cohort of patients undergoing transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt insertion revealed a transhepatic MIF gradient with higher concentrations in the right atrial blood.

Conclusions
Serum concentrations of MIF and its soluble receptor CD74 predict 90-day transplant-free survival in patients with acute decompensation of cirrhosis. This effect was independent of liver function and genetic predispositions, but rather reflected systemic inflammation. Therefore, MIF and sCD74 represent promising prognostic markers beyond classical scoring systems in patients at risk of ACLF.

Lay summary
Inflammatory processes contribute to the increased risk of death in patients with cirrhosis and ascites. We show that patients with high serum levels of the inflammatory cytokine macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) alongside low levels of its binding receptor sCD74 in blood indicate an increased mortality risk in patients with ascites. The cirrhotic liver is a relevant source of elevated circulating MIF levels.

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