Transcriptional, Epigenetic, and Functional Reprogramming of Monocytes From Non-Human Primates Following Chronic Alcohol Drinking

Front Immunol. 2021 Aug 20:12:724015. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.724015. eCollection 2021.


Chronic heavy drinking (CHD) of alcohol is a known risk factor for increased susceptibility to bacterial and viral infection as well as impaired wound healing. Evidence suggests that these defects are mediated by a dysregulated inflammatory response originating from myeloid cells, notably monocytes and macrophages, but the mechanisms remain poorly understood. Our ability to study CHD is impacted by the complexities of human drinking patterns and behavior as well as comorbidities and confounding risk factors for patients with alcohol use disorders. To overcome these challenges, we utilized a translational rhesus macaque model of voluntary ethanol self-administration that closely recapitulates human drinking patterns and chronicity. In this study, we examined the effects of CHD on blood monocytes in control and CHD female macaques after 12 months of daily ethanol consumption. While monocytes from CHD female macaques generated a hyper-inflammatory response to ex vivo LPS stimulation, their response to E. coli was dampened. In depth scRNA-Seq analysis of purified monocytes revealed significant shifts in classical monocyte subsets with accumulation of cells expressing markers of hypoxia (HIF1A) and inflammation (NFkB signaling pathway) in CHD macaques. The increased presence of monocyte subsets skewed towards inflammatory phenotypes was complemented by epigenetic analysis, which revealed higher accessibility of promoter regions that regulate genes involved in cytokine signaling pathways. Collectively, data presented in this manuscript demonstrate that CHD shifts classical monocyte subset composition and primes the monocytes towards a more hyper-inflammatory response to LPS, but compromised pathogen response.

Keywords: ATAC-Seq; alcohol; inflammation; monocytes; nonhuman primates; scRNA seq.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cellular Reprogramming Techniques*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Biomarkers
  • Lipopolysaccharides