Luigi Boccuto, Ludovico Abenavoli
Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is a definition encompassing a spectrum of disorders ranging from simple steatosis to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Excessive alcohol consumption triggers a series of metabolic reactions that affect the liver by inducing lipogenesis, increasing oxidative stress, and causing abnormal inflammatory responses. The metabolic pathways regulating lipids, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and immune system are closely related and in some cases cross-regulate each other. Therefore, it must be taken into account that major genetic and epigenetic abnormalities affecting enzymes involved in one of such pathways can play a pivotal role in ALD pathogenesis. However, recent studies have pointed out how a significant predisposition can also be determined by minor variants, such as relatively common polymorphisms, epigenetic modifications, and microRNA abnormalities. Genetic and epigenetic factors can also affect the progression of liver diseases, promoting fibrogenesis, cirrhosis, and ultimately hepatocellular carcinoma. It is noteworthy that some of these factors, such as some of the cytokines involved in the abnormal inflammatory responses, are shared with non-alcoholic liver disease, while other factors are unique to ALD. The study of the genetic and epigenetic components involved in the liver damages caused by alcohol is crucial to identify individuals with high risk of developing ALD, design personalized protocols for prevention and/or treatment, and select the best molecular targets for new therapies.
Key words. Steatosis, Inflammation., Epigenetics., Translational research., microRNAs.