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Leptin deficiency enhances sensitivity of rats to alcoholic steatohepatitis through suppression of metallothionein.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Keio University School of Medicine, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-8582, Japan.


Oxidative stress is stated to be a central mechanism of hepatocellular injury in alcohol-induced liver injury. Recent reports have shown that Kupffer cell dysfunction in the leptin-deficient state contributes partly to the increased sensitivity to endotoxin liver injury. Here we report that leptin also plays a key role in the development of alcoholic liver injury and that leptin signaling in hepatocytes is involved in cellular mechanisms that mediate ethanol-induced oxidative stress. We found that chronic ethanol feeding in leptin receptor-deficient Zucker (fa/fa) rats for 6 wk resulted in a much more severe liver injury and augmented accumulation of hepatic lipid peroxidation compared with control littermates. The hepatic induction of stress-response and antioxidant proteins, such as metallothionein (MT)-1 and -2, was significantly suppressed in fa/fa rats after chronic ethanol feeding. Zinc concentration in liver was also decreased in fa/fa rats, compared with control littermates. In primary cultured hepatocytes from fa/fa rats, incubation with ethanol significantly suppressed MT-1 and -2 expressions. Addition of leptin to leptin-deficient ob/ob mouse primary hepatocytes led to an increase in MT-1 and -2 mRNA levels and a decrease in oxidative stress after incubation with ethanol. In conclusion, leptin deficiency enhances sensitivity of rats to alcohol-induced steatohepatitis through hepatocyte-specific interaction of MT-1 and -2 and resultant exaggeration of oxidative stress in hepatocytes. These findings suggest that leptin resistance in hepatocytes is an important mechanism of alcohol-induced liver injury.

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