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Am J Pathol. 2000 Apr;156(4):1263-74.

Cytokeratin 8 protects from hepatotoxicity, and its ratio to cytokeratin 18 determines the ability of hepatocytes to form Mallory bodies.

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Department of Pathology, University of Graz, Graz, Austria.


In alcoholic hepatitis, a severe form of alcohol-induced toxic liver injury, as well as in experimental intoxication of mice with the porphyrinogenic drugs griseofulvin and 3,5-diethoxycarbonyl-1, 4-dihydrocollidine, hepatocytes form cytoplasmic protein aggregates (Mallory bodies; MBs) containing cytokeratins (CKs) and non-CK components. Here we report that mice lacking the CK8 gene and hence CK intermediate filaments in hepatocytes, but still expressing the type I partner, ie, the CK18 gene, do not form MBs but suffer from extensive porphyria and progressive toxic liver damage, leading to the death of a considerable number of animals (7 of 12 during 12 weeks of intoxication). Our observations show that 1) in the absence of CK8 as well as in the situation of a relative excess of CK18 over CK8 no MBs are formed; 2) the loss of CK8 is not compensated by other type II CKs; and 3) porphyria and toxic liver damage are drastically enhanced in the absence of CK8. Our results point to a protective role of CKs in certain types of toxic liver injury and suggest that MBs by themselves are not harmful to hepatocytes but may be considered as a product of a novel defense mechanism in hepatocytes.

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