IgG4-Associated Cholangitis: A Comprehensive Review

Lowiek M. Hubers, Lucas J. Maillette de Buy Wenniger, Marieke E. Doorenspleet, Paul L. Klarenbeek, Joanne Verheij, Erik A. Rauws, Thomas M. van Gulik, Ronald P.J. Oude Elferink, Stan F.J. van de Graaf, Niek de Vries, Ulrich Beuers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


IgG4-associated cholangitis (IAC) is a major manifestation of immunoglobulin G4-related disease (IgG4-RD), an inflammatory multiorgan disorder of unknown cause. IAC and autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) may mimic sclerosing cholangitis, cholangiocarcinoma, or pancreatic carcinoma. Typically, elderly male patients present with abdominal discomfort, weight loss, jaundice, and itch. At present, no accurate diagnostic test for IAC and IgG4-RD is at hand, often causing significant diagnostic delay. Serum IgG4 is only diagnostic when markedly raised (>4× ULN). Imaging in IAC discloses mass-forming lesions and/or strictures in the biliary tract. Histology may show tissue infiltration of IgG4-expressing plasma cells. Diagnostic criteria for histologic and imaging findings, serum tests, organ manifestation pattern, and response to immunosuppressive therapy (HISORt) criteria are used for the diagnosis of IgG4-RD. Still, considering the difficulty in diagnosing IAC and AIP, unnecessary hepatic or pancreatic resections for presumed malignancies occur. The good response to corticosteroid therapy in IAC and other manifestations of IgG4-RD suggests an immune-mediated inflammatory disease. Maintenance immunosuppression after induction of remission is needed in the majority of patients to avoid relapse. The pathogenesis of IAC and IgG4-RD remains poorly understood. Unresolved questions include: (i) Does IgG4 have a pro- or anti-inflammatory role in IAC? (ii) Is IAC a B cell- and/or T cell-mediated disease? (iii) Which are the molecular targets attacked by the immune system in IgG4-RD? Here, we review the diagnostic and therapeutic management of the disease and discuss recent pathophysiological findings, which might help to better understand the molecular mechanisms contributing to IAC and other manifestations of IgG4-RD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-206
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Reviews in Allergy and Immunology
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2015

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