The American journal of pathology

A new Mdr2(-/-) mouse model of sclerosing cholangitis with rapid fibrosis progression, early-onset portal hypertension, and liver cancer.

PMID 25478810


We previously characterized the Mdr2(Abcb4)(-/-) mouse as a reproducible model of chronic biliary liver disease. However, it demonstrates relatively slow fibrosis progression, possibly due to its fibrosis-resistant genetic background. We aimed to improve the model by moving it onto a fibrosis-susceptible background. We generated novel BALB/c.Mdr2(-/-) mouse via genetic backcross onto highly fibrosis-susceptible BALB/c substrain, identified in inbred mouse strain screening. Liver fibrosis, portal pressure, and hepatic tumor burden in BALB/c.Mdr2(-/-) mice were studied up to 1 year of age in direct comparison to parental strain FVB.Mdr2(-/-). BALB/c.Mdr2(-/-) mice developed periductular onion-skin type fibrotic lesions and pronounced ductular reaction starting from 4 weeks of age. Compared to parental strain, BALB/c.Mdr2(-/-) mice demonstrated dramatically accelerated liver fibrosis, with threefold increase in collagen deposition and bridging fibrosis/early signs of cirrhosis at 12 weeks. This was accompanied by early-onset severe portal hypertension and twofold to fourfold increase in profibrogenic transcripts Col1a1 [procollagen α1(I)], Tgfb1, and Timp1. Primary liver cancers in BALB/c.Mdr2(-/-) developed earlier, with greater tumor burden compared to FVB.Mdr2(-/-). BALB/c.Mdr2(-/-) mice have unprecedented degree and rapidity of hepatic fibrosis progression and clinically relevant cirrhosis complications, such as early-onset portal hypertension and primary liver cancers. This new model will facilitate development of antifibrotic drugs and studies into mechanisms of biliary fibrosis progression.