It is not known why viable hepatocytes in fatty livers are vulnerable to necrosis, but associated mitochondrial alterations suggest that reactive oxygen species (ROS) production may be increased. Although the mechanisms for ROS-mediated lethality are not well understood, increased mitochondrial ROS generation often precedes cell death, and hence, might promote hepatocyte necrosis. The aim of this study is to determine if liver mitochondria from obese mice with fatty hepatocytes actually produce increased ROS. Secondary objectives are to identify potential mechanisms for ROS increases and to evaluate whether ROS increase uncoupling protein (UCP)-2, a mitochondrial protein that promotes ATP depletion and necrosis. Compared to mitochondria from normal livers, fatty liver mitochondria have a 50% reduction in cytochrome c content and produce superoxide anion at a greater rate. They also contain 25% more GSH and demonstrate 70% greater manganese superoxide dismutase activity and a 35% reduction in glutathione peroxidase activity. Mitochondrial generation of H(2)O(2) is increased by 200% and the activities of enzymes that detoxify H(2)O(2) in other cellular compartments are abnormal. Cytosolic glutathione peroxidase and catalase activities are 42 and 153% of control values, respectively. These changes in the production and detoxification of mitochondrial ROS are associated with a 300% increase in the mitochondrial content of UCP-2, although the content of beta-1 ATP synthase, a constitutive mitochondrial membrane protein, is unaffected. Supporting the possibility that mitochondrial ROS induce UCP-2 in fatty hepatocytes, a mitochondrial redox cycling agent that increases mitochondrial ROS production upregulates UCP-2 mRNAs in primary cultures of normal rat hepatocytes by 300%. Thus, ROS production is increased in fatty liver mitochondria. This may result from chronic apoptotic stress and provoke adaptations, including increases in UCP-2, that potentiate necrosis.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.