The interleukin-17 pathway is involved in human alcoholic liver disease

Hepatology. 2009 Feb;49(2):646-57. doi: 10.1002/hep.22680.


Immune dysregulations in alcoholic liver diseases are still unclear, especially regarding alcoholic hepatitis inflammatory burst. Interleukin-17 (IL-17) is known to enhance neutrophil recruitment. We studied the IL-17 pathway in alcoholic cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis. Patients with alcoholic liver disease were compared with patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection or autoimmune liver disease and with healthy controls. IL-17 plasma levels and peripheral blood mononuclear cell secretion were assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and T cell phenotype by flow cytometry. IL-17 staining and co-staining with CD3 and myeloperoxidase were performed on liver biopsy specimens. IL-17 receptor expression was studied on liver biopsies and in human hepatic stellate cells as well as their response to recombinant IL-17 by chemotaxis assays. IL-17 plasma levels were dramatically increased in alcoholic liver disease patients. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells of patients with alcoholic liver disease produced higher amounts of IL-17, and their CD4(+) T lymphocytes disclosed an IL-17-secreting phenotype. In the liver, IL-17-secreting cells contributed to inflammatory infiltrates in alcoholic cirrhosis, and alcoholic hepatitis foci disclosed many IL-17(+) cells, including T lymphocytes and neutrophils. In alcoholic liver disease, liver IL-17(+) cells infiltrates correlated to model for end-stage liver disease score, and in alcoholic hepatitis to modified discriminant function. IL-17 receptor was expressed in alcoholic liver disease by hepatic stellate cells, and these cells recruited neutrophils after IL-17 stimulation in a dose-dependent manner through IL-8 and growth related oncogen alpha (GRO-alpha) secretion in vitro.

Conclusion: Human alcoholic liver disease is characterized by the activation of the IL-17 pathway. In alcoholic hepatitis, liver infiltration with IL-17-secreting cell infiltrates is a key feature that might contribute to liver neutrophil recruitment. (Clinical trials number NCT00610597).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Female
  • Hepatic Stellate Cells / cytology
  • Hepatic Stellate Cells / physiology
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / blood
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / pathology
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / blood
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-17 / blood*
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Liver Cirrhosis / blood
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / physiopathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Alcoholic / blood
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Alcoholic / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Alcoholic / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Neutrophils / physiology
  • Reference Values


  • Interleukin-17
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Alanine Transaminase

Associated data