Molecular mechanisms of alcoholic fatty liver: Role of sterol regulatory element-binding proteins

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90 Scopus citations


Alcoholic fatty liver is the earliest and most common response of the liver to alcohol in heavy alcohol use, and it may be a precursor of more severe forms of liver injury. We and colleagues in our laboratory found that in two rat hepatoma cell lines, H4IIEC3 and McA-RH7777, ethanol markedly induced transcription of a sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP)-regulated promoter through increased levels of mature SREBP-1 protein. Whereas inhibition of ethanol oxidation by 4-methylpyrazole blocked the effect, the aldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor cyanamide enhanced the effect of ethanol in the hepatoma cells, supporting the idea that the effect is likely mediated by acetaldehyde. Consistent with these in vitro findings, consumption of a low-fat diet with ethanol by mice for 4 weeks resulted in a significant increase in the abundance of the mature (active) form of hepatic SREBP-1. Activation of SREBP-1 by ethanol feeding was associated with increased expression of lipogenic genes as well as the accumulation of triglyceride in the livers. Taken together, these findings seem to indicate that metabolism of ethanol increased hepatic lipogenesis by activating SREBP-1 and that this effect of ethanol may contribute to the development of alcoholic fatty liver. We and colleagues in our laboratory further studied the mechanisms of ethanol activation of SREBP-1 by identifying a new target of ethanol, adenosine 5′-monophosphate (AMP)-activated protein kinase. Our study results demonstrated that the effect of ethanol on SREBP-regulated promoter activation was mediated, at least in part, through inhibition of AMP-activated protein kinase. Consistent with this hypothesis, chronic ethanol feeding (4 weeks) resulted in a significantly reduced activity and protein level of AMP-activated protein kinase and increased acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase activity in the mouse livers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-43
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcoholic fatty liver
  • AMP-activated protein kinase
  • Sterol regulatory element-binding proteins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Medicine(all)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology
  • Health(social science)

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