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Ethanol Activates Immune Response In Lymphoblastoid Cells

Jeanette N McClintick, Jay A Tischfield, Li Deng, Manav Kapoor, Xiaoling Xuei, Howard J Edenberg
Alcohol 2019 January 8
The short term effects of alcohol on gene expression in brain tissue cannot directly be studied in humans. Because neuroimmune signaling is altered by alcohol, immune cells are a logical, accessible choice to study and might provide biomarkers. RNAseq was used to study the effects of 48 h exposure to ethanol on lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) from 21 alcoholics and 21 controls. Ethanol exposure resulted in differential expression of 4,577 of the 12,526 genes detectably expressed in the LCLs (FDR ≤ 0.05); 55% of these showed increased expression. Cells from alcoholics and controls responded similarly. The genes whose expression changed fell into many pathways. NFκB, neuroinflammation, IL-6, and dendritic cell maturation pathways were activated, consistent with increased signaling by NFκB, TNF, TGFβ, IL1, IL4, IL18, TLR4, and LPS. Signaling by Interferons A and B decreased, which may be responsible for a slightly blunted immune response compared to 24 h ethanol treatment. EIF2, phospholipase C and VEGF signaling were decreased. Baseline gene expression patterns were similar in LCLs from alcoholics and controls. At relaxed stringency (p<0.05), 1164 genes differed, 340 of which were also affected by ethanol. There was a suggestion of compensation, with 77% showing opposing fold changes. Aldosterone signaling and phospholipase C signaling differed. The pattern of expression was consistent with increased signaling by several cytokines and TLR2 in alcoholics. The cholesterol biosynthesis pathway was lower in alcoholics, including a decrease in the rate-limiting enzyme HMGCR. LCLs show many effects of ethanol exposure, some of which might provide biomarkers for AUD and aid in interpreting the effects of genes identified by GWAS.


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