Alcohol-associated liver disease is a spectrum of liver disorders with histopathological changes ranging from simple steatosis to steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Recent data suggest that chronic-plus-binge ethanol intake induces steatohepatitis by promoting release by hepatocytes of proinflammatory mitochondrial DNA–enriched (mtDNA-enriched) extracellular vesicles (EVs). The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of the stress kinase apoptosis signal–regulating kinase 1 (ASK1) and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38) in chronic-plus-binge ethanol–induced steatohepatitis and mtDNA-enriched EV release. Microarray analysis revealed the greatest hepatic upregulation of metallothionein 1 and 2 (Mt1/2), which encode 2 of the most potent antioxidant proteins. Genetic deletion of the Mt1 and Mt2 genes aggravated ethanol-induced liver injury, as evidenced by elevation of serum ALT, neutrophil infiltration, oxidative stress, and ASK1/p38 activation in the liver. Inhibition or genetic deletion of Ask1 or p38 ameliorated ethanol-induced liver injury, inflammation, ROS levels, and expression of phagocytic oxidase and ER stress markers in the liver. In addition, inhibition of ASK1 or p38 also attenuated ethanol-induced mtDNA-enriched EV secretion from hepatocytes. Taken together, these findings indicate that induction of hepatic mtDNA-enriched EVs by ethanol is dependent on ASK1 and p38, thereby promoting alcoholic steatohepatitis.
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