Genetic Analysis of ABCB4 Mutations and Variants Related to the Pathogenesis and Pathophysiology of Low Phospholipid-Associated Cholelithiasis

Helen H. Wang, Piero Portincasa, Min Liu, David Q.H. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Clinical studies have revealed that the ABCB4 gene encodes the phospholipid transporter on the canalicular membrane of hepatocytes, and its mutations and variants are the genetic basis of low phospholipid-associated cholelithiasis (LPAC), a rare type of gallstone disease caused by a sin-gle-gene mutation or variation. The main features of LPAC include a reduction or deficiency of phospholipids in bile, symptomatic cholelithiasis at <40 years of age, intrahepatic sludge and mi-crolithiasis, mild chronic cholestasis, a high cholesterol/phospholipid ratio in bile, and recurrence of biliary symptoms after cholecystectomy. Needle-like cholesterol crystals, putatively “anhydrous” cholesterol crystallization at low phospholipid concentrations in model and native bile, are charac-terized in ABCB4 knockout mice, a unique animal model for LPAC. Gallbladder bile with only trace amounts of phospholipids in these mice is supersaturated with cholesterol, with lipid composition plotting in the left two-phase zone of the ternary phase diagram, consistent with “anhydrous” cholesterol crystallization. In this review, we summarize the molecular biology and physiological functions of ABCB4 and comprehensively discuss the latest advances in the genetic analysis of ABCB4 mutations and variations and their roles in the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of LPAC in hu-mans, based on the results from clinical studies and mouse experiments. To date, approximately 158 distinct LPAC-causing ABCB4 mutations and variants in humans have been reported in the literature, indicating that it is a monogenic risk factor for LPAC. The elucidation of the ABCB4 function in the liver, the identification of ABCB4 mutations and variants in LPAC patients, and the ex-ploration of gene therapy for ABCB4 deficiency in animal models can help us to better understand the cellular, molecular, and genetic mechanisms underlying the onset of the disease, and will pave the way for early diagnosis and prevention of susceptible subjects and effective intervention for LPAC in patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1047
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • ABC transporters
  • Lith genes
  • bile acids
  • bile flow
  • bile formation
  • biliary lipid secretion
  • cholesterol crystallization
  • gallstones
  • gene mutations and variants
  • hepatocytes
  • micelle
  • vesicle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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