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Abstract

Patients with alcohol-related liver disease (ALD) have antibodies directed to alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), anti-ADH titers being associated with disease severity and active alcohol consumption. ADH-specific T-cell responses have not been characterized. We aimed to define anti-ADH cellular immune responses and their association with active alcohol consumption and disease severity. Using cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from 25 patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis (ARC; 12 were actively drinking or abstinent for <6 months, and 13 were abstinent for >6 months) and hepatic mononuclear cells (HMCs) from 14 patients with ARC who were undergoing transplantation, we investigated T-cell reactivity to 25 overlapping peptides representing the full human ADH protein (beta 1 subunit). ADH-specific peripheral T-cell responses were assessed by the quantification of T-cell proliferation and cytokine production and were correlated with the clinical course. In active alcohol consumers, proliferative T-cell responses targeted ADH31-95 and other discontinuous sequences in the ADH peptide, whereas only one sequence was targeted in abstinents. ADH peptides induced the production of interferon-γ (IFN-γ), interleukin-4 (IL-4), and IL-17. IL-4 production was lower in active drinkers versus abstinents, and IL-17 production was higher. Peptides inducing IFN-γ production outnumbered those inducing T-cell proliferation. The intensity of the predominantly T helper 1 (Th1) responses directly correlated with disease severity. Similar to PBMCs in abstinents, ADH peptides induced weak T-cell proliferation and a similar level of IL-4 production in HMCs but less vigorous Th1 and T helper 17 responses. Conclusion: This suggests that Th1 responses to ADH in ARC are induced by alcohol consumption. A Th1/T helper 2 imbalance characterizes T-cell responses in active drinkers with ARC, whereas IL-4 production prevails in abstinents. This identifies new targets for immunoregulatory therapies in ALD patients for halting detrimental effector T-cell responses, which may encourage liver fibrogenesis and progression to end-stage liver disease. (HEPATOLOGY 2013)