Ethanol sensitizes hepatocytes for TGF-beta-triggered apoptosis.

Alcohol abuse is a global health problem causing a substantial fraction of chronic liver diseases. Abundant TGF-beta-a potent pro-fibrogenic cytokine-leads to disease progression. Our aim was to elucidate the crosstalk of TGF-beta and alcohol on hepatocytes. Primary murine hepatocytes were challenged with ethanol and TGF-beta and cell fate was determined. Fluidigm RNA analyses revealed transcriptional effects that regulate survival and apoptosis. Mechanistic insights were derived from enzyme/pathway inhibition experiments and modulation of oxidative stress levels. To substantiate findings, animal model specimens and human liver tissue cultures were investigated. RESULTS: On its own, ethanol had no effect on hepatocyte apoptosis, whereas TGF-beta increased cell death. Combined treatment led to massive hepatocyte apoptosis, which could also be recapitulated in human HCC liver tissue treated ex vivo. Alcohol boosted the TGF-beta pro-apoptotic gene signature. The underlying mechanism of pathway crosstalk involves SMAD and non-SMAD/AKT signaling. Blunting CYP2E1 and ADH activities did not prevent this effect, implying that it was not a consequence of alcohol metabolism. In line with this, the ethanol metabolite acetaldehyde did not mimic the effect and glutathione supplementation did not prevent the super-induction of cell death. In contrast, blocking GSK-3beta activity, a downstream mediator of AKT signaling, rescued the strong apoptotic response triggered by ethanol and TGF-beta. This study provides novel information on the crosstalk between ethanol and TGF-beta. We give evidence that ethanol directly leads to a boost of TGF-beta's pro-apoptotic function in hepatocytes, which may have implications for patients with chronic alcoholic liver disease.

Cell Death Dis. 2018 Jan 19;9(2):51. doi: 10.1038/s41419-017-0071-y.
H. Gaitantzi, C. Meyer, P. Rakoczy, M. Thomas, K. Wahl, F. Wandrer, H. Bantel, H. Alborzinia, S. Wolfl, S. Ehnert, A. Nussler, I. Bergheim, L. Ciuclan, M. Ebert, K. Breitkopf-Heinlein, Steven Dooley
Date Published:
Cell Death Dis