Synthetic human ABCB4 mRNA therapy rescues severe liver disease phenotype in a BALB/c.Abcb4-/- mouse model of PFIC3

Guangyan Wei, Jingsong Cao, Pinzhu Huang, Ping An, Disha Badlani, Kahini A. Vaid, Shuangshuang Zhao, David Q.H. Wang, Jenny Zhuo, Ling Yin, Andrea Frassetto, Arianna Markel, Vladimir Presnyak, Srujan Gandham, Serenus Hua, Christine Lukacs, Patrick F. Finn, Paloma H. Giangrande, Paolo G.V. Martini, Yury V. Popov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis type 3 (PFIC3) is a rare lethal autosomal recessive liver disorder caused by loss-of-function variations of the ABCB4 gene, encoding a phosphatidylcholine transporter (ABCB4/MDR3). Currently, no effective treatment exists for PFIC3 outside of liver transplantation. Methods: We have produced and screened chemically and genetically modified mRNA variants encoding human ABCB4 (hABCB4 mRNA) encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles (LNPs). We examined their pharmacological effects in a cell-based model and in a new in vivo mouse model resembling human PFIC3 as a result of homozygous disruption of the Abcb4 gene in fibrosis-susceptible BALB/c.Abcb4-/- mice. Results: We show that treatment with liver-targeted hABCB4 mRNA resulted in de novo expression of functional hABCB4 protein and restored phospholipid transport in cultured cells and in PFIC3 mouse livers. Importantly, repeated injections of the hABCB4 mRNA effectively rescued the severe disease phenotype in young Abcb4-/- mice, with rapid and dramatic normalisation of all clinically relevant parameters such as inflammation, ductular reaction, and liver fibrosis. Synthetic mRNA therapy also promoted favourable hepatocyte-driven liver regeneration to restore normal homeostasis, including liver weight, body weight, liver enzymes, and portal vein blood pressure. Conclusions: Our data provide strong preclinical proof-of-concept for hABCB4 mRNA therapy as a potential treatment option for patients with PFIC3. Lay summary: This report describes the development of an innovative mRNA therapy as a potential treatment for PFIC3, a devastating rare paediatric liver disease with no treatment options except liver transplantation. We show that administration of our mRNA construct completely rescues severe liver disease in a genetic model of PFIC3 in mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1416-1428
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Cholangiopathy
  • Cholangitis
  • Congenital biliary cirrhosis
  • Gene therapy
  • Liver fibrosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


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