Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program




First Thesis Advisor

Gyongyi Szabo


Liver Diseases, Alcoholic, Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, Ethanol


Chronic intake of alcohol can result in a range of pathology in the liver. Whilst the earliest changes observed with chronic ethanol, including the accumulation of lipid, or steatosis, are readily reversible upon cessation of alcohol consumption, longer exposure to ethanol may achieve more complex disease states including steatohepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis that can cause irreversible damage and progress to fulminant hepatic failure. A key concept in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease is that chronic ethanol primes the liver to increased injury through an interplay between hepatocytes and non-parenchymal cells, chiefly immune cells, of the liver. These relationships between hepatocytes and non-parenchymal cell types in alcoholic liver disease are reviewed in Chapter 1A.

The Hypoxia Inducible Factors are a set of transcription factors that classically have been described as affecting a homeostatic response to conditions of low oxygen tension. Alcoholic liver disease is marked by increased hepatic metabolic demands, and some evidence exists for increased hepatic tissue hypoxia and upregulation of hypoxia-inducible factor mRNA with chronic alcohol. However, the biological significance of these findings is unknown. In Chapter 1B, we review the literature on recent investigations on the role of hypoxia inducible factors in a broad array of liver diseases, seeking to find common themes of biological function.

In subsequent chapters, we investigate the hypothesis that a member of the hypoxia inducible- factor family, HIF1α, has a role in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease. In Chapter 2, we establish a mouse model of alcoholic liver disease and report data confirming HIF1α activation with chronic ethanol. We demonstrate that HIF1α protein, mRNA, and DNA binding activity is upregulated in ethanol-fed mice versus pair-fed mice, and that some upregulation of HIF2α protein is observable as well. In Chapter 3, we utilize a mouse model of hepatocyte-specific HIF1α activation and demonstrate that such mice have exacerbated liver injury, including greater triglyceride accumulation than control mice. Using cre-lox technology, we introduce a degradation resistant mutant of HIF1α in hepatocytes, and after four weeks of ethanol feeding, we demonstrate that mice with the HIF1α transgene have increased liver-weight to body weight ratio and higher hepatic triglyceride levels. Additionally, several HIF1α target genes are upregulated. In Chapter 4, we examine the relationship between HIF1α activation and hepatic lipid accumulation using a recently published in vitro system, in which lipid accumulation was observed after treating Huh7 cells with the chemokine Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1 (MCP-1). We report that MCP-1 treatment induces HIF1α nuclear protein accumulation, that HIF1α overexpression in Huh7 cells induces lipid accumulation, and finally, that HIF1α siRNA prevents MCP-1 induced lipid accumulation. In Chapter 5, we use mouse models to investigate the hypothesis that suppression of HIF1α in hepatocytes or cells of the myeloid lineage may have differing effects on the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease. We find that ethanol-fed mice expressing a hepatocyte-specific HIF1α deletion mutant exhibit less elevation in liver-weight body ratio and diminished hepatic triglycerides versus wild-type mice; furthermore, we find that challenging these mice with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) results in less liver enzyme elevation and inflammatory cytokine secretion than in wild-type mice. In Chapter 6, we offer a final summary of our findings and some directions for future work.



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