Glycine as a therapeutic immuno-nutrient for alcoholic liver disease

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2005 Nov;29(11 Suppl):162S-5S. doi: 10.1097/01.alc.0000189281.82523.6c.


Activation of Kupffer cells by gut-derived endotoxin is an important factor in ethanol hepatotoxicity. Further, it was shown that ethanol modulates both the expression and activity of several intracellular signaling molecules and transcription factors in Kupffer cells and chronic ethanol treatment enhances Kupffer cell sensitivity to endotoxin. These findings suggest that inhibition of Kupffer cell activation is effective for clinical application in alcoholic hepatitis. Recently, accumulating lines of evidence suggest a possibility that glycine is useful as an immuno-modulating amino acid. It has been shown that a diet containing glycine improved survival in endotoxin shock by preventing Kupffer cell activation. Glycine most likely prevents the LPS-induced elevation of intracellular Ca concentration in Kupffer cells, thereby minimizing LPS receptor signaling and cytokine production. Indeed, glycine prevents alcohol-induced liver injury in a long-term enteral ethanol feeding rats (Tsukamoto-French) by decreasing production of TNF-alpha in the liver. Moreover, glycine is protective against apoptosis of sinusoidal endothelial cells (SECs) that is one of the initial events in the development of liver injury. On the other hand, epidemiologic data have identified chronic alcohol consumption as a significant risk factor for carcinogenesis. Interestingly, glycine inhibits growth of tumor in vivo most likely because of the inhibition of angiogenesis. It was shown that the inhibitory effect of glycine on growth and migration of endothelial cells is due to activation of a glycine-gated Cl channel. It is hypothesized that the opening of this anion channel hyperpolarizes the cell membrane, blocks influx of Ca through voltage-dependent Ca channel, thereby blunting growth factor-mediated signaling. Therefore, glycine can be used not only for treatment of alcoholic hepatitis, but also for chemoprevention and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma in alcoholic cirrhosis. Taken together, it is concluded that glycine is a potent therapeutic immuno-nutrient for various kinds of chronic liver diseases including alcoholic liver disease (ALD).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Glycine / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Kupffer Cells / drug effects
  • Kupffer Cells / metabolism
  • Liver / blood supply
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / drug therapy*
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / prevention & control
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors


  • Calcium Channels
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Glycine