Ethanol and high cholesterol diet causes severe steatohepatitis and early liver fibrosis in mice

Yasodha Krishnasamy, Venkat K. Ramshesh, Monika Gooz, Rick G. Schnellmann, John J. Lemasters, Zhi Zhong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background and Aim: Because ethanol consumption is commonly associated with a high cholesterol diet, we examined whether combined consumption of ethanol and high cholesterol increases liver injury and fibrosis. Methods: Male C57BL/6J mice were fed diets containing: 1) 35% of calories from corn oil (CTR), 2) CTR plus 0.5% (w/v) cholesterol (Chol), 3) CTR plus ethanol (27% of calories) (EtOH), or 4) EtOH+Chol for 3 months. Results: In mice fed Chol or EtOH alone, ALT increased to ∼160 U/L, moderate hepatic steatosis occurred, and leukocyte infiltration, necrosis, and apoptosis increased modestly, but no observable fibrosis developed. By contrast in mice fed EtOH+Chol, ALT increased to ∼270 U/L, steatosis was more extensive and mostly macrovesicular, and expression of proinflammatory molecules (HMGB-1, TLR4, TNFα, ICAM-1) and leukocyte infiltration increased substantially. Necrosis and apoptosis also increased. Trichrome staining and second harmonic generation microscopy revealed hepatic fibrosis. Fibrosis was mostly sinusoidal and/or perivenular, but in some mice bridging fibrosis occurred. Expression of smooth muscle α-actin and TGF-β1 increased slightly by Chol, moderately by EtOH, and markedly by EtOH+Chol. TGF-β pseudoreceptor BAMBI increased slightly by Chol, remained unchanged by EtOH and decreased by EtOH+Chol. MicroRNA-33a, which enhances TGF-β fibrotic effects, and phospho-Smad2/3, the down-stream signal of TGF-β, also increased more greatly by EtOH+Chol than Chol or EtOH. Metalloproteinase-2 and -9 were decreased only by EtOH+Chol. Conclusion: High dietary cholesterol and chronic ethanol consumption synergistically increase liver injury, inflammation, and profibrotic responses and suppress antifibrotic responses, leading to severe steatohepatitis and early fibrosis in mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0163342
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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