Background: Acute alcohol consumption is associated with induction of immuno-inhibitory cytokines and down-regulation of pro-inflammatory responses to various pathogens. We previously reported that alcohol activates janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK/STAT) signaling leading to IL-10 induction. The JAK-STAT pathway also activates its own negative regulators, suppressors of cytokine signaling (SOCS) 1 and SOCS3. SOCS proteins are inducible inhibitors that negatively regulate STAT3/STAT1 signaling pathways induced by cytokines, IL-6 or IFNs. Here we aimed to explore the effect of acute alcohol on induction of SOCS1/SOCS3 and regulation of STAT3/STAT1 pathways induced by IL-6 or IFNs in human monocytes.
Methods: Blood samples from normal volunteers were collected before and 24 hours after consumption of 2 ml vodka/kg body weight. For in vitro experiments human monocytes were pretreated with ethanol (EtOH) followed by stimulation with cytokines; proteins were analyzed by Western blot, nuclear protein binding to DNA by EMSA, and RNA by real time PCR.
Results: Acute in vivo or in vitro alcohol treatment increased both SOCS1 and SOCS3 RNA expression in monocytes. Alcohol treatment resulted in increased STAT3 and STAT1 DNA binding capacity. Activation of both STAT1 and STAT3 has been shown to induce SOCS1/3. We hypothesized that induction of SOCS proteins by alcohol in turn may lead to modulation of cytokine signaling through STAT1 and STAT3. Indeed, we observed significant down-regulation of IL-6-, IFNalpha- and IFNgamma-induced STAT1 DNA binding as well as inhibition of IL-6- and IFNgamma-induced STAT3 when alcohol was added to monocytes 3 hours prior to the cytokine stimulation. Consistent with inhibition of IL-6-induced STAT3 DNA binding in alcohol-pretreated cells, the levels of IL-6-dependent genes, MCP-1 and ICAM-1, was reduced after IL-6 stimulation. Similar to EtOH alone, combined EtOH+IL-6 simulation resulted in increased expression of both SOCS3 and SOCS1 genes.
Conclusion: While acute alcohol treatment alone activates STAT1/3 signaling pathways and induces SOCS3 and SOCS1 levels in monocytes, alcohol also leads to down-regulation of IL-6-, IFNalpha-, and IFNgamma-induced signaling via STAT1/STAT3 pathways, likely through excessive SOCS activation.