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J Immunol. 2009 Jul 15;183(2):1320-7. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0803206. Epub 2009 Jun 26.

The opposite effects of acute and chronic alcohol on lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation are linked to IRAK-M in human monocytes.

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  • 1University of Massachusetts Medical School, Department of Medicine, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.


Impaired host defense after alcohol use is linked to altered cytokine production, however, acute and chronic alcohol differently modulate monocyte/macrophage activation. We hypothesized that in human monocytes, acute alcohol induces hyporesponsiveness to LPS, resulting in decreased TNF-alpha, whereas chronic alcohol increases TNF-alpha by sensitization to LPS. We found that acute alcohol increased IL-1R-associated kinase-monocyte (IRAK-M), a negative regulator of IRAK-1, in human monocytes. This was associated with decreased IkappaB alpha kinase activity, NFkappaB DNA binding, and NFkappaB-driven reporter activity after LPS stimulation. In contrast, chronic alcohol decreased IRAK-M expression but increased IRAK-1 and IKK kinase activities, NFkappaB DNA binding, and NFkappaB-reporter activity. Inhibition of IRAK-M in acute alcohol-exposed monocytes using small interfering RNA restored the LPS-induced TNF-alpha production whereas over-expression of IRAK-M in chronic alcohol macrophages prevented the increase in TNF-alpha production. Addition of inhibitors of alcohol metabolism did not alter LPS signaling and TNF-alpha production during chronic alcohol exposure. IRAK-1 activation induces MAPKs that play an important role in TNF-alpha induction. We determined that acute alcohol decreased but chronic alcohol increased activation of ERK in monocytes and ERK inhibitor, PD98059, prevented the chronic alcohol-induced increase in TNF-alpha. In summary, inhibition of LPS-induced NFkappaB and ERK activation by acute alcohol leads to hyporesponsiveness of monocytes to LPS due to increased IRAK-M. In contrast, chronic alcohol sensitizes monocytes to LPS through decreased IRAK-M expression and activation of NFkappaB and ERK kinases. Our data indicate that IRAK-M is a central player in the opposite regulation of LPS signaling by different lengths of alcohol exposure in monocytes.

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