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Open Access Research article

Changes of activity and isoforms of alkaline sphingomyelinase (nucleotide pyrophosphatase phosphodiesterase 7) in bile from patients undergoing endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography

Rui-Dong Duan1*, Ulf Hindorf2, Yajun Cheng1, Per Bergenzaun2, Mats Hall2, Erik Hertervig2 and Åke Nilsson2

Author Affiliations

1 Gastroenterology & Nutrition Laboratory, BMC, B11, Department of Clinical Sciences in Lund, University of Lund, S-22184 Lund, Sweden

2 Department of Gastroenterology, Skåne University Hospital, S-22185 Lund, Sweden

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BMC Gastroenterology 2014, 14:138  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-14-138

Published: 7 August 2014

Abstract

Background

Alkaline sphingomyelinase (NPP7) is an ecto-enzyme expressed in intestinal mucosa, which hydrolyses sphingomyelin (SM) to ceramide and inactivates platelet activating factor. It is also expressed in human liver and released in the bile. The enzyme may have anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory effects in colon and its levels are decreased in patients with colon cancer and ulcerative colitis. Active NPP7 is translated from a transcript of 1.4 kb, whereas an inactive form from a 1.2 kb mRNA was found in colon and liver cancer cell lines. While the roles of NPP7 in colon cancer have been intensively studied, less is known about the function and implications of NPP7 in the bile. The present study examines the changes of NPP7 in bile of patients with various hepatobiliary diseases.

Methods

Bile samples were obtained at endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) in 59 patients with gallstone, other benign disease, tumour, and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). The NPP7 activity was determined. The appearance of the 1.4 and 1.2 kb products in the bile was examined by Western blot. The results were correlated to the diseases and also plasma bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase.

Results

NPP7 activity in the tumour group was significantly lower than in the gallstone group (p < 0.05). The activity in the tumour plus PSC group was also lower than in gallstone plus other benign disease group (p < 0.05). Within the tumour group NPP7 activity was lowest in cholangiocarcinoma patients, being only 19% of that in gallstone patients. Bilirubin correlated inversely to NPP7 and was higher in the tumour than in the gallstone group. Western blot identified both the 1.4 kb and the 1.2 kb products in most bile samples. The density ratio for the 1.4/1.2 kb products correlated to NPP7 activity significantly. Two patients (one PSC and one cholangiocarcinoma) lacking NPP7 activity had only the 1.2 kb form in bile.

Conclusion

NPP7 activity and the ratio of 1.4/1.2 kb products in bile are significantly decreased in malignancy, particularly in cholangiocarcinoma. The implications of the finding in diagnosis of cholangiocarcinoma and 1.2 kb product in hepatobiliary diseases require further investigation.

Keywords:
NPP7; Alk-SMase; Bile; Patients; Cholangiocarcinoma; Liver diseases