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Biochimie. 2008 Mar;90(3):460-6. Epub 2007 Oct 5.

Ethanol consumption impairs regulation of fatty acid metabolism by decreasing the activity of AMP-activated protein kinase in rat liver.

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Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular I, Facultad de Biología, Universidad Complutense, Ciudad Universitaria, s/n, Madrid, Spain.


The mechanisms by which ethanol consumption causes accumulation of hepatic triacylglycerols are complex. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) plays a central role in the regulation of lipid metabolism. Therefore, in the present study we investigated whether AMPK may have a role in the development of ethanol-induced fatty liver. Hepatocytes isolated from rats fed with an ethanol-containing liquid diet showed higher rates of fatty acid and triacylglycerol syntheses, but a decreased rate of fatty acid oxidation, concomitant to a lower activity of carnitine palmitoyltransferase I. Hepatocytes from both ethanol-fed and pair-fed control rats were incubated with 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleoside (AICAR), an AMPK activator in intact cells. In both hepatocyte preparations AICAR strongly inhibited the activity of acetyl-CoA carboxylase in parallel to fatty acid synthesis, but cells from ethanol-fed rats showed significantly lower sensitivity to inhibition by AICAR. Moreover, AICAR strongly decreased triacylglycerol synthesis and increased fatty acid oxidation in control hepatocytes, but these effects were markedly attenuated in hepatocytes from ethanol-fed rats. In parallel, AMPK in liver of ethanol-fed rats showed a decreased specific activity and a lower sensitivity to changes in the AMP/ATP ratio, compared to the enzyme of control rats. These effects are consistent with the impairment of AMPK-mediated regulation of fatty acid metabolism after ethanol consumption, that will facilitate triacylglycerol accumulation. Taken together, these findings suggest that a decreased AMPK activity may have an important role in the development of alcoholic fatty liver.

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