Liver Microsomal Fatty Acid Composition in Ethanol-Fed Rats: Effect of Different Dietary Fats and Relationship to Liver Injury


  • This study was supported in part by Grant I-KO8-DK 1992 from the National Institute of Health. A.J.D. was the recipient of the Dr. Mark Weinstein Liver Scholar Award from the American Liver Foundation.

Reprint requests: Amin A. Nanji, M.D., Department of Pathology, New England Deaconess Hospital, 185 Pilgrim Road, M323, Boston, MA 02215.


The rat intragastric feeding model for alcoholic liver disease was used to study the effect of different diets on the fatty acid composition of liver microsomes. Rats were fed corn oil and ethanol (CE), saturated fat and ethanol (SF+E) or corn oil and dextrose (CD) for either 2 or 4 weeks. Rats were also fed saturated and dextrose (SF+D) for 4 weeks. In comparison with the CD diet, lower levels of arachidonic acid were detected in rats fed the CE, SF+E, and SF+D diets. However, the diet-induced changes in levels of arachidonic acid varied as a function of length of feeding. In rats fed the CE diet, we detected a significant decrease in the level of arachidonic acid compared with CD animals. Conversely, in rats fed the SF+E diet, the level of arachidonic acid increased compared with the SF+D group. In addition, a significant correlation was noted between levels of oleic acid and arachidonic acid in both corn oil (r=–0.85, p < 0.01) and saturated fat (r=–0.76, p < 0.05) groups. However, the changes in levels of arachidonic acid and oleic acid were in opposite directions in the two groups. Levels of docosahexaenoic acid decreased between the 2 and 4 weeks in animals maintained on the CE diet. Levels of stearic acid increased between 2 and 4 weeks in rats fed the SF+E diet. The lowest level of linoleic acid was detected in the SF+D and SF+E groups, but levels of linoleic acid remained constant in all groups throughout the study. Histological evaluation indicated that ethanol-induced liver injury was limited to rats fed the diet containing corn oil for 4 weeks. Thus, diet-dependent differences in liver microsomal fatty acid composition may help to explain why ethanol-induced liver injury occurs in rats fed corn oil, but not saturated fat.