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Am J Physiol. 1998 Oct;275(4):G605-11. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.1998.275.4.G605.

II. Alcoholic liver injury involves activation of Kupffer cells by endotoxin.

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Laboratory of Hepatobiology and Toxicology, Department of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7365, USA.


It is well known that females show a greater susceptibility to alcohol-induced liver injury than males. Additionally, females who consume alcohol regularly and have been obese for 10 years or more are at greater risk for both hepatitis and cirrhosis. Female rats on an enteral alcohol protocol exhibit injury more quickly than males, with widespread fatty changes over a larger portion of the liver lobule. Levels of plasma endotoxin, intercellular adhesion molecule-1, free radical adducts, infiltrating neutrophils, and nuclear factor-kappaB are increased about twofold more in livers from female than male rats after enteral alcohol treatment. Estrogen treatment in vivo increases the sensitivity of Kupffer cells to endotoxin. Evidence has been presented that Kupffer cells are pivotal in the development of alcohol-induced liver injury. Destruction of Kupffer cells with gadolinium chloride (GdCl3) or reduction of bacterial endotoxin by sterilization of the gut with antibiotics blocks early inflammation due to alcohol. Similar results have been obtained with anti-tumor necrosis factor-alpha antibody. These findings led to the hypothesis that alcohol-induced liver injury involves increases in circulating endotoxin, leading to activation of Kupffer cells, which causes a hypoxia-reoxygenation injury. This idea has been tested using pimonidazole, a nitroimidazole marker, to quantitate hypoxia in downstream pericentral regions of the liver lobule. After chronic enteral alcohol, pimonidazole binding increases twofold. Enteral alcohol also increases free radicals detected with electron spin resonance. Importantly, hepatic hypoxia and radical production detected in bile are decreased by destruction of Kupffer cells with GdCl3. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that Kupffer cells participate in important gender differences in liver injury caused by alcohol.

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