Chronic ethanol exposure potentiates lipopolysaccharide liver injury despite inhibiting Jun N-terminal kinase and caspase 3 activation

Ayman Koteish, Shi Qi Yang, Hui Zhi Lin, Xiawen Huang, Anna Mae Diehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although ethanol is known to sensitize hepatocytes to tumor necrosis factor (TNF) lethality, the mechanisms involved remain controversial. Recently, others have shown that adding TNFα to cultures of ethanol-pretreated hepatocytes provokes the mitochondrial permeability transition, cytochrome c release, procaspase 3 activation, and apoptosis. Although this demonstrates that ethanol can sensitize hepatocytes to TNF-mediated apoptosis, the hepatic inflammation and ballooning hepatocyte degeneration that typify alcohol-induced liver injury suggest that other mechanisms might predominate in vivo. To evaluate this possibility, acute responses to lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a potent inducer of TNFα, were compared in mice that had been fed either an ethanol-containing or control diet for 5 weeks. Despite enhanced induction of cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-10, IL-15, and IL-6 that protect hepatocytes from apoptosis, ethanol-fed mice exhibited a 4-5-fold increase in serum alanine aminotransferase after LPS, confirming increased liver injury. Six h post-LPS histology also differed notably in the two groups, with control livers demonstrating only scattered apoptotic hepatocytes, whereas ethanol-exposed livers had large foci of ballooned hepatocytes, inflammation, and scattered hemorrhage. No caspase 3 activity was noted during the initial 6 h after LPS in ethanol-fed mice, but this tripled by 1.5 h after LPS in controls. Procaspase 8 cleavage and activity of the apoptosis-associated kinase, Jun N-terminal kinase, were also greater in controls. In contrast, ethanol exposure did not inhibit activation of cytoprotective mitogen-activated protein kinases and AKT or attenuate induction of the anti-apoptotic factors NF-κB and inducible nitric oxide synthase. Consistent with these responses, neither cytochrome c release, an early apoptotic response, nor hepatic oligonucleosomal DNA fragmentation, the ultimate consequence of apoptosis, was increased by ethanol. Thus, ethanol exacerbates TNF-related hepatotoxicity in vivo without enhancing caspase 3-dependent apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13037-13044
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 12 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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