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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1999 Sep;23(9):1419-24.

Cytokines and the molecular mechanisms of alcoholic liver disease.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


This manuscript was given as a plenary lecture at the annual meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism in July of 1999. It describes the general mechanisms by which tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha, an injury-related cytokine, promotes liver regeneration and then details how TNF-initiated hepatotrophic signals are inhibited by chronic ethanol consumption. There is evidence that chronic ethanol exposure impairs the TNF-dependent activation of stress-activated protein kinases and some of their targets, including the growth-stimulatory DNA binding protein, c-Jun. Ethanol exposure also prevents TNF from activating the redox-sensitive transcription factor, NF kappa B, in regenerating hepatocytes. These effects are followed by decreased hepatocyte proliferation, as well as by impaired induction of TNF-regulated survival factors, such as Bcl-xL, in the liver. Thus, chronic ethanol consumption may damage the liver by inhibiting the hepatotrophic and hepatoprotective actions of TNFalpha and other growth-regulatory cytokines.

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