Background: Proinflammatory cytokines play an important role in alcohol-induced liver injury. The role of anti-inflammatory cytokines in the initiation and progression of alcoholic liver disease has received little attention. This study tested the hypothesis that an imbalance exists between pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines in the liver during chronic exposure to alcohol. Alcohol exposure results in predominantly proinflammatory cytokine secretion and liver injury.
Methods: IL-10 knock-out and their C57BL/6J counterpart wild-type mice were fed alcohol in drinking water for 7 weeks. At the end of alcohol feeding, Gram-negative bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was administered, and the animals were killed after 3 and 8 hr. Liver histology, plasma alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase activity, tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-10 levels, and liver cytokine messenger RNA levels were measured.
Results: Alcohol feeding and LPS treatment did not change plasma enzyme activity levels in wild-type mice. In the IL-10 knock-out mice, LPS alone increased aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase enzyme activity, and this was potentiated by alcohol. Alcohol induced liver steatosis in both wild-type and knock-out mice. LPS markedly enhanced the histological effects further, especially in the knock-out mice, with the emergence of focal necrosis, polymorphonuclear infiltration, and microabscesses in the liver. Plasma tumor necrosis factor-α and IL-1β levels were not affected by alcohol alone. Proinflammatory cytokine levels were increased by LPS and further enhanced by alcohol treatment, particularly in the IL-10 knock-out mice. IL-10 plasma levels in the wild-type animals were down-regulated by alcohol. Changes in liver cytokine messenger RNA paralleled those seen in plasma cytokine levels.
Conclusions: Alcohol-induced liver sensitization to LPS in wild-type mice may involve down-regulation of IL-10. This anti-inflammatory cytokine, known for its hepatoprotective effects, is secreted simultaneously with proinflammatory cytokines. IL-10 may also limit alcohol-induced liver damage by counteracting the effects of proinflammatory cytokines.