Clinically significant alcoholic (A) liver damage (LD), secondary to a hepatic necroinflammatory cascade (HNIC), occurs only in a subset of alcoholics. Hence, factors other than ethanol (E) must be involved. Hypothesis: The key cofactor for ALD is a breakdown of gut barrier integrity (""""""""leaky gut"""""""") due to chronic E use, which allows intestinal endotoxin to reach the liver & initiate a HNIC; this leakiness is due to cytoskeletal instability caused by oxidation of cytoskeletal proteins which is elicited by E-induced gut iNOS upregulation & nitric oxide (NO) overproduction. We found: 1} in man, gut leakiness in alcoholics with LD but not in those without LD or in nonalcoholics with LD; 2} in rats, E-induced leaky gut is associated with LD; reversal of gut leakiness attenuates LD; 3} in intestinal monolayers, E-induced iNOS upregulation causes cytoskeletal & barrier disruption. We will continue to use this successful translational approach (monolayers, rats & man) to test our current hypotheses.
Aims : (1) To see if, in a larger sample, a leaky gut: a) occurs only in alcoholics with LD & precedes cirrhosis b) persists during abstinence & after liver transplant for ALD, c) correlates quantitatively with LD severity, d) is associated with NO overproduction & HNIC, e) is more pronounced in females. We predict that gut leakiness (excess urinary lactulose, mannitol & sucralose levels after oral sugar load): i) is seen only in alcoholics with LD, precedes cirrhosis; ii) correlates with severity of LD (clinical parameters, liver enzymes); iii) is associated with NO overproduction (gut mucosal NO), serum endotoxin & HNIC (high neopterin/cytokines). (2) To see if, in rats, prevention of E-induced leaky gut also prevents E-induced LD & if a hyperactive, NO pathway is involved. We predict that in E-fed rats with LD: i) leaky gut, endotoxemia, HNIC, upregulation of intestinal iNOS, NO overproduction & oxidation of actin & tubulin occurs; ii) preventing gut leakiness (by oats, iNOS inhibitors or Arginine) prevents LD. (3) To see, using monolayers of wild type ((inhibitors) & transfected cells, if E-induced iNOS upregulation & its consequences (assessed by cytoskeletal oxidation/disarray & barrier disruption) are mediated by NF-kappaB activation. We predict i) E activates NF-kappaB by degrading IkappaBalpha; ii) preventing NF-kappaB activation prevents E-induced iNOS upregulation & its consequences. Significance: Showing that ALD requires a leaky gut, & that NO & cytoskeletal pathways are involved, could 1) identify drinkers at risk for LD (sugar test); 2) lead to therapies to prevent LD in those drinkers unable to abstain.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
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Alcohol and Toxicology Subcommittee 4 (ALTX)
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Russo, Denise A
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Rush University Medical Center
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