• Liver-specific glucocorticoid action in alcoholic liver disease

      Lu, Hong; Wang, Yazheng (2021)
      The number of deaths due to alcoholic liver disease is increasing every year. Glucocorticoids (GCs) are the only first-line drugs for alcoholic hepatitis (AH) treatment but have limited efficacy. Long-term high-dose GC use can cause various side effects on extrahepatic tissues, such as immunosuppression and neuromuscular side effects, which may be a limiting factor for GC treatment of AH. Therefore, liver-specific GC-targeted therapy may have multiple advantages compared with systemic GC for AH. This research explored the role of liver-specific deficiency of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in AH induced by a high-fat diet (HFD) plus ethanol binge. Females are less prone to AH induced by HFD plus acute binge drinking, likely due to sex differences in estrogen (E2) signaling. We found that hepatic GR deficiency worsened steatosis in both genders of AH mice but only aggravated the liver injury in male AH mice. Multiple signaling pathways were dysregulated in GR knockout AH mice. Interestingly, hepatic expression of estrogen receptor (ERα) was induced, and the E2-inactivating enzyme was markedly down-regulated in GR knockout AH mice, suggesting enhanced E2 signaling in these mice. Our data mining found marked dysregulation of many GR-target genes important for lipid catabolism, cytoprotection, and inflammation in patients with severe AH. These key GR-target genes were similarly induced or down-regulated by our liver-targeting GC prodrugs and the parent drug at 1μM in primary human hepatocytes. In contrast, GC prodrugs had much weaker inhibitory effects than the parent drug on LPS-induction of IL-1B in mouse macrophages, suggesting a good liver selectivity of our liver-targeting GC prodrugs. The ultimate goal of this study is to determine the mechanistic role of GR in alcoholic fatty liver disease and develop targeted drug therapies to treat alcoholic hepatitis.