JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Susceptibility to alcohol-related liver injury

C S Lieber
Alcohol and Alcoholism. Supplement 1994, 2: 315-26
8974351
Alcohol affects the liver through metabolic disturbances associated with its oxidation. Redox changes produced by the hepatic alcohol dehydrogenase pathway affect lipid, carbohydrate and protein metabolism. Ethanol is also oxidized in liver microsomes by the ethanol-inducible cytochrome P4502E1, resulting in ethanol tolerance and selective hepatic perivenular damage. Furthermore, P4502E1 activates various xenobiotics, explaining the increased susceptibility of the heavy drinker to the toxicity of anesthetics, commonly used medications (i.e. isoniazid), analgesics (i.e. acetaminophen), and chemical carcinogens. Induction of microsomal enzymes also contributes to vitamin A depletion, enhances its hepatotoxicity and results in increased acetaldehyde generation from ethanol, with formation of protein adducts, glutathione depletion, free-radical-mediated toxicity, and lipid peroxidation. Chronic ethanol consumption strikingly enhances the number of hepatic collagen-producing activated lipocytes. Both in vivo (in our baboon model of alcoholic cirrhosis) and in vitro (in cultured myofibroblasts and activated lipocytes) ethanol and/or its metabolite acetaldehyde increase collagen accumulation and mRNA for collagen. Gender differences are related, in part, to lower gastric ADH activity (with consequent reduction of first pass ethanol metabolism) in young women, decreased hepatic fatty acid binding protein and increased free-fatty acid levels as well as lesser omega-hydroxylation, all of which result in increased vulnerability to ethanol. Elucidation of the biochemical effects of ethanol are now resulting in improved therapy: in baboons, S-adenosyl-L-methionine attenuates the ethanol-induced glutathione depletion and associated mitochondrial lesions, and polyenylphosphatidylcholine opposes the ethanol-induced hepatic phospholipid depletion, the decrease in phosphatidylethanolamine methyltransferase activity and the activation of hepatic lipocytes, with full prevention of ethanol-induced septal fibrosis and cirrhosis; its dilinoleoyl species also increases collagenase activity in lipocytes. The efficacy of this compound in man is now being studied in randomized multicenter clinical trials.

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