Background: Several studies have indicated that endotoxemia is the required co-factor for alcoholic steatohepatitis (ASH) that is seen in only about 30% of alcoholics. Recent studies have shown that gut leakiness that occurs in a subset of alcoholics is the primary cause of endotoxemia in ASH. The reasons for this differential susceptibility are not known. Since disruption of circadian rhythms occurs in some alcoholics and circadian genes control the expression of several genes that are involved in regulation of intestinal permeability, we hypothesized that alcohol induces intestinal hyperpermeability by stimulating expression of circadian clock gene proteins in the intestinal epithelial cells.
Methods: We used Caco-2 monolayers grown on culture inserts as an in vitro model of intestinal permeability and performed Western blotting, permeability, and siRNA inhibition studies to examine the role of Clock and Per2 circadian genes in alcohol-induced hyperpermeability. We also measured PER2 protein levels in intestinal mucosa of alcohol-fed rats with intestinal hyperpermeability.
Results: Alcohol, as low as 0.2%, induced time dependent increases in both Caco-2 cell monolayer permeability and in CLOCK and PER2 proteins. SiRNA specific inhibition of either Clock or Per2 significantly inhibited alcohol-induced monolayer hyperpermeability. Alcohol-fed rats with increased total gut permeability, assessed by urinary sucralose, also had significantly higher levels of PER2 protein in their duodenum and proximal colon than control rats.
Conclusions: Our studies: (i) demonstrate a novel mechanism for alcohol-induced intestinal hyperpermeability through stimulation of intestinal circadian clock gene expression, and (ii) provide direct evidence for a central role of circadian genes in regulation of intestinal permeability.
Copyright © 2011 by the Research Society on Alcoholism.