Protein S exacerbates alcoholic hepatitis by stimulating liver natural killer T cells

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Abstract

Background:

Alcohol consumption is a major cause of liver injury but the mechanisms are not completely understood. Protein S (PS) is an anticoagulant glycoprotein with multiple functions. The role of PS in liver injury is unknown.

Objectives:

This study investigated the role of PS in acute alcoholic hepatitis.

Methods:

A mouse overexpressing human PS (hPS-TG) was generated in which acute hepatitis was induced by intraperitoneal injection of ethanol.

Results:

The levels of serum liver enzymes and liver tissue inflammatory cytokines and the degree of hepatic steatosis were significantly increased in hPS-TG mice treated with ethanol compared with ethanol-treated wild type (WT) mice. Cell expansion, activation and inhibition of apoptosis were significantly augmented in natural killer T (NKT) cells from hPS-TG mice compared with WT mice. Liver mononuclear cells from hPS-TG mice express higher levels of inflammatory cytokines than those from WT mice after stimulation with a specific stimulant of NKT cells in vitro. In a co-culture system of hepatocytes and NKT cells, the effects of PS on ethanol-mediated cell injury were suppressed by a CD1d neutralizing antibody. Alcoholic liver injury was significantly improved in mice pre-treated with PS siRNA and anti-protein S antibody compared with control mice. Patients with alcoholic hepatitis showed significantly increased plasma PS levels and enhanced liver expression of PS and CD1d compared with controls.

Conclusions:

The results of this study suggest that PS exacerbates acute alcoholic hepatitis by inhibiting apoptosis of activated NKT cells.

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