An excessive inflammatory response is frequently associated with cellular dysfunction and cell death. The latter may cause single and multiple organ failure. The most susceptible organs are liver, lung, kidney, heart and intestine. This review will focus on the liver as a target organ for an excessive inflammatory response. It is commonly accepted that organ failure is caused by the action of inflammatory cytokines released in excess during the inflammatory response. It has been suggested that inflammation mediated liver failure is not due to an increased death rate of parenchymal cells, but due to an intracellular metabolic disorder. This metabolic disorder is associated with mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) dysfunction during the acute phase response elicited by systemic inflammation. An overproduction of acute phase proteins in the liver as well as elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation induce ER stress, triggering the unfolded protein response (UPR), which may initiate or aggravate inflammation. It is known that certain inflammatory mediators, such as the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1β, IL-6 and TNF-α induce ER stress. These findings suggest that ER stress and the subsequent UPR on the one hand, and the inflammatory response on the other create a kind of feed forward loop, which can be either beneficial (e.g., elimination of the pathogen and restoration of tissue homeostasis) or deleterious (e.g., excessive cell dysfunction and cell death). This review aims to unfurl the different pathways contributing to this loop and to highlight the relevance of UPR signaling (IRE1α, ATF6, and PERK) and mediators of the inflammatory response (NF-κB, STAT3, IL-1β, IL-6, TLR) which have a particular role as pathophysiological triggers in the liver.
Keywords: Endoplasmic reticulum stress; IL-1β; Inflammatory response; Interleukin-6; Liver diseases; TNF-α; Unfolded protein response.
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