Characterization of liver-specific autoantigens has given a fresh impetus to research in the pathogenesis of autoimmune liver diseases, viral-triggered and drug-induced autoimmunity affecting the liver. Intriguing is the fact that most of the liver-specific autoantigens are enzymes of key importance for cells homeostasis. Detection of autoantibodies against the respective antigens is carried out for diagnostic and research purposes using indirect immunofluorescence, immunoblotting, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, radioimmunoassay, immunoprecipitation or assays determining inhibition of enzyme activity. In patients with autoimmune hepatitis, a liver disorder of unknown etiology and pathogenesis, disease-specific autoantibodies are frequently directed against drug metabolizing enzymes of phase 1, namely cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6). The same and other members of these families of enzymes (CYPs) have also been described as targets of liver-specific autoimmunity in chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected patients, patients with autoimmune hepatitis as part of the autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type-1 (APS-1) and drug-induced autoimmunity. How these enzymes become ‘self targets’ is not yet established. An antigen release following hepatocyte injury could provide the stimulus for an immune response towards epitopes on these enzymes but the highly-specific, antigenrestricted initiation of the observed autoimmune response is against such an explanation. Accordingly, in this review we will focus on the pathogenic role -if any- of autoimmune responses against liver-related CYPs in autoimmune hepatitis, HCV infection, APS-1 and drug-induced autoimmunity. Learning more about the specificity of antibody responses against these enzymes may help us better understand the mechanisms underlying liver autoimmunity and may facilitate the development of therapeutic and preventive interventions.
Keywords: Autoimmune hepatitis, cytochrome P4502D6, cytochrome P4502A6, cytochrome P4501A2, autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type 1, drug induced hepatitis, hepatitis C virus, antibodies to liver kidney microsomal antigens (anti-LKM)