Proteomic analysis of alcohol-associated hepatitis reveals glycoprotein NMB (GPNMB) as a novel hepatic and serum biomarker

Alcohol. 2022 Mar:99:35-48. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2021.11.005. Epub 2021 Dec 17.


Alcohol consumption remains a leading cause of liver disease worldwide, resulting in a complex array of hepatic pathologies, including steatosis, steatohepatitis, and cirrhosis. Individuals who progress to a rarer form of alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD), alcohol-associated hepatitis (AH), require immediate life-saving intervention in the form of liver transplantation. Rapid onset of AH is poorly understood and the metabolic mechanisms contributing to the progression to liver failure remain undetermined. While multiple mechanisms have been identified that contribute to ALD, no cures exist and mortality from AH remains high. To identify novel pathways associated with AH, our group utilized proteomics to investigate AH-specific biomarkers in liver explant tissues. The goal of the present study was to determine changes in the proteome as well as epigenetic changes occurring in AH. Protein abundance and acetylomic analyses were performed utilizing nHPLC-MS/MS, revealing significant changes to proteins associated with metabolic and inflammatory fibrosis pathways. Here, we describe a novel hepatic and serum biomarker of AH, glycoprotein NMB (GPNMB). The anti-inflammatory protein GPNMB was significantly increased in AH explant liver and serum compared to healthy donors by 50-fold and 6.5-fold, respectively. Further, bioinformatics analyses identified an AH-dependent decrease in protein abundance across fatty acid degradation, biosynthesis of amino acids, and carbon metabolism. The greatest increases in protein abundance were observed in pathways for focal adhesion, lysosome, phagosome, and actin cytoskeleton. In contrast with the hyperacetylation observed in murine models of ALD, protein acetylation was decreased in AH compared to normal liver across fatty acid degradation, biosynthesis of amino acids, and carbon metabolism. Interestingly, immunoblot analysis found epigenetic marks were significantly increased in AH explants, including Histone H3K9 and H2BK5 acetylation. The increased acetylation of histones likely plays a role in the altered proteomic profile observed, including increases in GPNMB. Indeed, our results reveal that the AH proteome is dramatically impacted through unanticipated and unknown mechanisms. Understanding the origin and consequences of these changes will yield new mechanistic insight for ALD as well as identify novel hepatic and serum biomarkers, such as GPNMB.

Keywords: Acetylation; Alcohol-associated hepatitis; Histone; Proteomics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Eye Proteins / metabolism
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Hepatitis, Alcoholic*
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Proteomics*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry


  • Biomarkers
  • Eye Proteins
  • GPNMB protein, human
  • Glycoproteins
  • Gpnmb protein, mouse
  • Membrane Glycoproteins