Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is associated with increased expression and function of inhibitory guanine nucleotide regulatory proteins (Gi- proteins). This study addresses the effects of chronic ethanol exposure on the expression and function of adenylyl cyclase (AC)-linked G-proteins (Gs and Gi) and growth in experimental HCC. G-protein expression and function was determined by immunoblot in the hepatic tumorigenic H4IIE cell line and isolated cultured hepatocytes in the absence or presence of ethanol (5-100 mmol/L). Chronic exposure (24 hours) to ethanol dose-dependently increased Giα( 1/2 ) expression in the H4IIE cell line, but not in cultured hepatocytes. Gsαprotein expression remained unchanged in both H4IIE cells and cultured hepatocytes following ethanol treatment. In addition, ethanol directly activated a Gi-protein, because pertussis toxin (PTx)-catalyzed, adenosine diphosphate (ADP)-dependent ribosylation of Giα substrates decreased following ethanol treatment. The increased functional activity of Giα( 1/2 )- protein expression was confirmed by demonstrating that ethanol dose- dependently inhibited basal and stimulated AC activity in H4IIE cells, while not significantly altering basal AC activity in isolated cultured hepatocytes. Furthermore, while ethanol had no significant effect on basal mitogenesis in H4IIE cells or hepatocytes, increased mitogenesis caused by direct Giα-protein stimulation (mastoparan M7; 10-5,000 nmol/L) was further enhanced in the presence of ethanol, an effect that was completely blocked following Gi-protein inhibition (PTx; 100 ng/mL). In contrast, activation of Gi-proteins using M7 failed to alter cellular mitogenesis in isolated cultured hepatocytes, whether in the absence or presence of ethanol. Finally, analysis of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) activity demonstrated that chronic ethanol treatment further enhanced Gi-protein-stimulated MAPK activity in hepatic tumorigenic cells. In conclusion, these data demonstrate that ethanol enhances cellular mitogenesis in experimental HCC as a result of, at least in part, a Gi-MAPK-dependent pathway. Furthermore, this effect may be caused by ethanol's direct up-regulation of the expression and activity of Gi-proteins in HCC.
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