A review of the role of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species in alcohol-induced mitochondrial dysfunction

Shannon M Bailey
Free Radical Research 2003, 37 (6): 585-96
Our understanding of the mechanisms involved in the development of alcohol-induced liver disease has increased substantially in recent years. Specifically, reactive oxygen and nitrogen species have been identified as key components in initiating and possibly sustaining the pathogenic pathways responsible for the progression from alcohol-induced fatty liver to alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Ethanol has been demonstrated to increase the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and decrease several antioxidant mechanisms in liver. However, the relative contribution of the proposed sites of ethanol-induced reactive species production within the liver is still not clear. It has been proposed that chronic ethanol-elicited alterations in mitochondria structure and function might result in increased production of reactive species at the level of the mitochondrion in liver from ethanol consumers. This in turn might result in oxidative modification and inactivation of mitochondrial macromolecules, thereby contributing further to mitochondrial dysfunction and a loss in hepatic energy conservation. Moreover, ethanol-related increases in reactive species may shift the balance between pro- and anti-apoptotic factors such that there is activation of the mitochondrial permeability transition, which would lead to increased cell death in the liver after chronic alcohol consumption. This article will examine the critical role of these reactive species in ethanol-induced liver injury with specific emphasis on how chronic ethanol-associated alterations to mitochondria influence the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and how their production may disrupt hepatic energy conservation in the chronic alcohol abuser.

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