p53 protects against alcoholic fatty liver disease via ALDH2 inhibition

EMBO J. 2023 Apr 17;42(8):e112304. doi: 10.15252/embj.2022112304. Epub 2023 Feb 24.


The tumor suppressor p53 is critical for tumor suppression, but the regulatory role of p53 in alcohol-induced fatty liver remains unclear. Here, we show a role for p53 in regulating ethanol metabolism via acetaldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), a key enzyme responsible for the oxidization of alcohol. By repressing ethanol oxidization, p53 suppresses intracellular levels of acetyl-CoA and histone acetylation, leading to the inhibition of the stearoyl-CoA desaturase-1 (SCD1) gene expression. Mechanistically, p53 directly binds to ALDH2 and prevents the formation of its active tetramer and indirectly limits the production of pyruvate that promotes the activity of ALDH2. Notably, p53-deficient mice exhibit increased lipid accumulation, which can be reversed by ALDH2 depletion. Moreover, liver-specific knockdown of SCD1 alleviates ethanol-induced hepatic steatosis caused by p53 loss. By contrast, overexpression of SCD1 in liver promotes ethanol-induced fatty liver development in wild-type mice, while it has a mild effect on p53-/- or ALDH2-/- mice. Overall, our findings reveal a previously unrecognized function of p53 in alcohol-induced fatty liver and uncover pyruvate as a natural regulator of ALDH2.

Keywords: ALDH2; alcoholic fatty liver; histone acetylation; p53; protein-protein interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial* / genetics
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Ethanol / toxicity
  • Fatty Liver* / genetics
  • Fatty Liver* / metabolism
  • Fatty Liver, Alcoholic* / genetics
  • Fatty Liver, Alcoholic* / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Pyruvates / metabolism
  • Pyruvates / pharmacology
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53* / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53* / metabolism


  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase, Mitochondrial
  • ALDH2 protein, mouse
  • Ethanol
  • Pyruvates
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE222743