Role of Kupffer cells and gut-derived endotoxins in alcoholic liver injury1


  • 1 This study was performed in the Laboratory of Hepatobiology and Toxicology, Department of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina.

Correspondence: DrNSato Department of Gastroenterology, Juntendo University, 2-1-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8421, Japan. Email:


The hepatotoxic effects of alcohol have been described in detail, but factors responsible for its hepatotoxicity have only partially been characterized. For example, it is known that chronic ethanol ingestion increases hepatotoxicity and produces fatty liver, hepatitis and cirrhosis. However, acute ethanol consumption reduces endotoxin hepatotoxicity. It now appears that Kupffer cells participate in several aspects of these phenomena. Previously, most studies on the effects of alcohol on liver function have focused chiefly on the hepatocyte. Recently, attention has been directed towards the effect of ethanol ingestion on Kupffer cell function, which is stimulated by gut-derived endotoxins (lipopolysaccharides) via mechanisms dependent on increased gut permeability and the possible relationship between Kupffer cells and alcohol-induced liver injury. Here we will review new evidence for the proposal that Kupffer cells and endotoxins play a pivotal role in hepatotoxicity following alcohol exposure, based on studies using the continuous intragastric enteral feeding model developed by Tsukamoto and French and an acute model developed by us.