Central role of mitochondria in metabolic regulation of liver pathophysiology


Nobuhiro Sato, Department of Gastroenterology, Juntendo University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan. Email: nsato@med.juntendo.ac.jp


Mitochondria play a central role in cellular energy metabolism. Oxidative phosphorylation occurs in the electron transport system of the inner mitochondrial membrane. Cytochrome aa3, b and c1 are encoded by mitochondrial DNA whereas cytochrome c is encoded by the nuclear gene, and these mitochondrial-DNA dependent cytochromes are decreased and electron transport at complex II, III and IV is disturbed in liver carcinomas and during carcinogenesis. The more the decreased cytochrome and oxidase activity are seen, the more significant is the increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. ROS produced in mitochondria may be the main cause of nuclear-gene mutation in carcinogenesis. The mitochondrial dysfunction and overproduction of ROS plays a key role in progression of chronic hepatitis C and ethanol-induced liver injury. Ethanol also causes bacterial translocation in the intestine and the resulting lipopolysaccharides (LPS) activates Kupffer cells to produce pro-inflammatory cytokines. We suspect that non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) also is the result of increased ROS production in Kupffer cells and hepatocytes.