Clinical studies have demonstrated that alcoholics have a lower dietary zinc intake compared to health controls. The present study was undertaken to determine the interaction between dietary zinc deficiency and ethanol consumption in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease. C57BL/6N mice were subjected to 8-week feeding of 4 experimental liquid diets: (1) zinc adequate diet, (2) zinc adequate diet plus ethanol, (3) zinc deficient diet, and (4) zinc deficient diet plus ethanol. Ethanol exposure with adequate dietary zinc resulted in liver damage as indicated by elevated plasma alanine aminotransferase level and increased hepatic lipid accumulation and inflammatory cell infiltration. Dietary zinc deficiency alone increased hepatic lipid contents, but did not induce hepatic inflammation. Dietary zinc deficiency showed synergistic effects on ethanol-induced liver damage. Dietary zinc deficiency exaggerated ethanol effects on hepatic genes related to lipid metabolism and inflammatory response. Dietary zinc deficiency worsened ethanol-induced imbalance between hepatic pro-oxidant and antioxidant enzymes and hepatic expression of cell death receptors. Dietary zinc deficiency exaggerated ethanol-induced reduction of plasma leptin, although it did not affect ethanol-induced reduction of white adipose tissue mass. Dietary zinc deficiency also deteriorated ethanol-induced gut permeability increase and plasma endotoxin elevation. These results demonstrate, for the first time, that dietary zinc deficiency is a risk factor in alcoholic liver disease, and multiple intrahepatic and extrahepatic factors may mediate the detrimental effects of zinc deficiency.