High blood pressure in the portal vein, portal hypertension (PH), is the final common pathway in liver cirrhosis regardless of aetiology. Complications from PH are the major cause of morbidity and mortality in these patients. Current drug therapy to reduce portal pressure is mainly limited to β-adrenergic receptor blockade but about forty percent of patients do not respond. Our aim was to use microarray to measure the expression of ~20,800 genes in portal vein from patients with PH undergoing transplantation for liver cirrhosis (PH, n = 12) versus healthy vessels (control, n = 9) to identify potential drug targets to improve therapy. Expression of 9,964 genes above background was detected in portal vein samples. Comparing PH veins versus control (adjusted p value < 0.05, fold change > 1.5) identified 548 upregulated genes and 1,996 downregulated genes. The 2,544 differentially expressed genes were subjected to pathway analysis. We identified 49 significantly enriched pathways. The endothelin pathway was ranked the tenth most significant, the only vasoconstrictive pathway to be identified. ET-1 gene (EDN1) was significantly upregulated, consistent with elevated levels of ET-1 peptide previously measured in PH and cirrhosis. ETA receptor gene (EDNRA) was significantly downregulated, consistent with an adaptive response to increased peptide levels in the portal vein but there was no change in the ETB gene (EDNRB). The results provide further support for evaluating the efficacy of ETA receptor antagonists as a potential therapy in addition to β-blockers in patients with PH and cirrhosis.

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