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Alcohol Res. 2013;35(1):47-55.

Epigenetic effects of ethanol on the liver and gastrointestinal system.

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Department of Medical Pharmacology & Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA.


The widening web of epigenetic regulatory mechanisms also encompasses ethanol-induced changes in the gastrointestinal (GI)-hepatic system. In the past few years, increasing evidence has firmly established that alcohol modifies several epigenetic parameters in the GI tract and liver. The major pathways affected include DNA methylation, different site-specific modifications in histone proteins, and microRNAs. Ethanol metabolism, cell-signaling cascades, and oxidative stress have been implicated in these responses. Furthermore, ethanol-induced fatty liver (i.e., steatohepatitis) and progression of liver cancer (i.e., hepatic carcinoma) may be consequences of the altered epigenetics. Modification of gene and/or protein expression via epigenetic changes also may contribute to the cross-talk among the GI tract and the liver as well as to systemic changes involving other organs. Thus, epigenetic effects of ethanol may have a central role in the various pathophysiological responses induced by ethanol in multiple organs and mediated via the liver-GI axis.

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