Background & aims: Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha is associated with increased mortality in alcoholics, but its role in early alcohol-induced liver injury is not fully understood. Recently, it was shown that injury induced by the enteral alcohol delivery model of Tsukamoto and French was reduced by antibodies to TNF-alpha. To obtain clear evidence for or against the hypothesis that TNF-alpha is involved, we studied TNF receptor 1 (TNF-R1, p55) or 2 (TNF-R2, p75) knockout mice.
Methods: Long-term enteral alcohol delivery was modified for male gene-targeted mice lacking TNF-R1 and TNF-R2. Animals were given a high-fat liquid diet continuously with either ethanol or isocaloric maltose-dextrin as a control for 4 weeks.
Results: Ethanol elevated serum levels of alanine aminotransferase nearly 3-fold in wild-type and TNF-R2 knockout mice but not in TNF-R1 knockout mice. Likewise, ethanol caused severe liver injury in wild-type mice (pathology score, 5.5 +/- 0.6) and TNF-R2 knockout mice (pathology score, 5.0 +/- 0.4), but not in TNF-R1 knockout mice (pathology score, 0.8 +/- 0.4; P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Long-term ethanol feeding caused liver injury in wild-type and TNF-R2 knockout mice but not in TNF-R1 knockout mice, providing solid evidence in support of the hypothesis that TNF-alpha plays an important role in the development of early alcohol-induced liver injury via the TNF-R1 pathway. Moreover, the long-term enteral ethanol feeding technique we described for the first time for knockout mice provides a useful new tool for alcohol research.