Aims: Thrombin exerts various pathophysiological functions by activating protease-activated receptors (PARs), and thrombin-induced activation of PARs promotes the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Since heparin cofactor II (HCII) specifically inactivates thrombin action, we hypothesized that plasma HCII activity correlates with the severity of NAFLD.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted. Plasma HCII activity and noninvasive clinical markers of hepatic fibrosis including fibrosis-4 (FIB-4) index, NAFLD fibrosis score (NFS) and aspartate aminotransferase-to-platelet ratio index (APRI) were determined in 305 Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). The relationships between plasma HCII activity and the clinical markers were statistically evaluated.
Results: Multiple regression analysis including confounding factors showed that plasma HCII activity independently contributed to decreases in FIB-4 index (p＜0.001), NFS (p＜0.001) and APRI (p=0.004). In addition, logistic regression analysis for the prevalence of advanced hepatic fibrosis defined by the cutoff points of the clinical scores showed that plasma HCII activity was the sole and common negative factor for prevalence of advanced hepatic fibrosis (FIB-4 index: p=0.002, NFS: p=0.026 and APRI: p=0.012).
Conclusions: Plasma HCII activity was inversely associated with clinical hepatic fibrosis indices including FIB-4 index, NFS and APRI and with the prevalence of advanced hepatic fibrosis in patients with T2DM. The results suggest that HCII can serve as a novel biomarker for assessment of hepatic fibrosis of NAFLD in patients with T2DM.