The role of endotoxin in the pathogenesis of progressive liver disease is receiving increasing attention, but remains controversial. Similarly, although alcoholic hepatitis is now recognized as the transitional link between alcoholic fatty liver and advanced alcoholic liver disease, the aetiology of liver cell necrosis in alcoholic hepatitis is not known.
Rats fed a nutritionally adequate liquid alcohol diet according to the formula of Lieber and DeCarli developed fatty livers. Littermates fed an identical diet and challenged with small IV doses (1μg/g body weight) of E. coli lipopolysaccharide endotoxin (LPS) developed focal necrotizing hepatitis. Control littermates fed an identical calorie balanced but alcohol free diet and challenged with identical doses of LPS did not develop any liver lesions.
The hepatocyte necrosis with associated inflammatory changes induced by LPS in fatty livers has some features of early human alcoholic hepatitis and suggests that progressive alcohol induced damage may be multifactorial in origin.