The organic anion uptake and efflux transporters [organic anion-transporting polypeptide (OATP)1B1, OATP1B3 and multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP)2 and MRP3] that mediate the transport of the hepatobiliary-specific contrast agent gadoxetate (Gd-EOB-DTPA) are direct or indirect targets of the farnesoid X receptor (FXR), a key regulator of bile acid and lipid homeostasis. In benign liver tumors, FXR expression and activation is not yet characterized. We investigated the expression and activation of FXR and its targets in hepatocellular adenoma (HCA) and focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH) and their correlation with Gd-EOB-DTPA-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Gd-EOB-DTPA MRI patterns were assessed by an expert radiologist. The intensity of the lesions on the hepatobiliary phase was correlated to mRNA expression levels of OATP1B1, OATP1B3, MRP2, MRP3, FXR, and small heterodimer partner (SHP) in fresh surgical specimens of patients with FNH or HCA subtypes. Normal and tumor sample pairs of 43 HCA and 14 FNH were included. All FNH (14/14) were hyperintense. Of the 34 HCA with available Gd-EOB-DTPA-enhanced MRI, 6 were hyperintense and 28 HCA were hypointense. OATP1B3 was downregulated in the hypointense tumors compared with normal surrounding liver tissue (2.77±3.59 vs. 12.9±15.6, P < 0.001). A significant positive correlation between FXR expression and activation and OATP1B3 expression level was found in the HCA cohort. SHP showed a trend toward downregulation in hypointense HCA. In conclusion, this study suggests that the MRI relative signal in HCA may reflect expression level and/or activity of SHP and FXR. Moreover, our data confirms the pivotal role of OATP1B3 in Gd-EOB-DTPA uptake in HCA. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: FXR represents a valuable target for the treatment of liver disease and metabolic syndrome. Currently, two molecules, ursodeoxycholate and obeticholate, are approved for the treatment of primary biliary cirrhosis and cholestasis, with several compounds in clinical trials for the treatment of metabolic dysfunction-associated fatty liver disease. Because FXR expression and activation is associated with gadoxetate accumulation in HCA, an atypical gadoxetate-enhanced MRI pattern might arise in patients under FXR-targeted therapy, thereby complicating the differential diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-125
Number of pages8
JournalDrug metabolism and disposition: the biological fate of chemicals
Issue number2
Early online date1 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024

Cite this