INTRODUCTION: Ulcerative colitis (UC) associated with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC-UC) is considered a unique inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) entity. PSC diagnosis in an IBD individual entails a significantly higher risk of gastrointestinal cancer; however, biomarkers for identifying patients with UC at risk for PSC are lacking. We, therefore, performed a thorough PSC-UC biomarker study, starting from archived colonic tissue.
METHODS: Proteins were extracted out of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded proximal colon samples from PSC-UC (n = 9), UC (n = 7), and healthy controls (n = 7). Patients with IBD were in clinical and histological remission, and all patients with UC had a history of pancolitis. Samples were processed by the multienzyme digestion FASP and subsequently analyzed by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Candidate proteins were replicated in an independent cohort (n: PSC-UC = 16 and UC = 21) and further validated by immunohistochemistry.
RESULTS: In the discovery step, 7,279 unique proteins were detected. The top 5 most differentiating proteins (PSC-UC vs UC) based on linear regression analysis were selected for replication. Of these, 1-acetylglycerol-3-phosphate O-acyltransferase 1 (AGPAT1) was verified as higher in PSC-UC than UC (P = 0.009) in the replication cohort. A difference on the group level was also confirmed by immunohistochemistry, showing more intense AGPAT1 staining in patients with PSC-UC compared with UC.
DISCUSSION: We present AGPAT1 as a potential colonic biomarker for differentiating PSC-UC from UC. Our findings have possible implication for future PSC-IBD diagnostics and surveillance.