Dissection of endoplasmic reticulum stress signaling in alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver injury


  • Cheng Ji

    1. USC-UCLA Research Center for Alcoholic Liver and Pancreatic Diseases, USC Research Center for Liver Disease, Department of Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
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Dr Cheng Ji, Gastroenterology/Liver Division, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 2011 Zonal Avenue, HMR-101, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA. Email: chengji@usc.edu


Accumulation of unfolded or malfolded proteins induces endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress which elicits a complex network of interacting and parallel responses that dampen the stress. The ER stress response in the liver is controlled by intrinsic feedback effectors and is initially protective. However, delayed or insufficient responses or interplay with mitochondrial dysfunction may turn physiological mechanisms into pathological consequences including apoptosis, fat accumulation and inflammation all of which have an important role in the pathogenesis of liver disorders such as genetic mutations, viral hepatitis, insulin resistance, ischemia/reperfusion injury, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic steatosis. In both alcohol and non-alcohol-induced ER stress, a common candidate is hyperhomocysteinemia. Betaine supplementation and/or expression of betaine-homocysteine methyltransferase (BHMT) promote removal of homocysteine and alleviate ER stress, fatty accumulation and apoptosis in cultured hepatocytes and mouse models. The rapidity and magnitude of homocysteine-induced activation of each of the main ER resident transmembrane sensors including inositol requiring enzyme 1 (IRE-lα), activating transcription factor 6 (ATF-6) and RNA-activated protein kinase (PKR)-like ER kinase (PERK) appear different in different experimental models. Dissection and differentiation of ER stress signaling may reveal clues on the specific importance of the ER stress response in contributing to liver injury and thus provide better strategies on prevention and treatment of liver disease.