Background & aims: Malondialdehyde and acetaldehyde react together with proteins and form hybrid protein conjugates designated as MAA adducts, which have been detected in livers of ethanol-fed rats. The aim of this study was to examine the immune response to MAA adducts and other aldehyde adducts during long-term ethanol exposure.
Methods: Rats were pair-fed for 7 months with a liquid diet containing either ethanol or isocaloric carbohydrate. Circulating antibody titers against MAA adducts and acetaldehyde adducts were measured and characterized in these animals.
Results: A significant increase in antibody titers against MAA-adducted proteins was observed in the ethanol-fed animals. Competitive inhibitions of antibody binding indicated that the circulating antibodies against MAA-modified proteins in the ethanol-fed rats recognized mainly a specific, chemically defined MAA epitope. Antibody titers to reduced and nonreduced acetaldehyde adducts were very low, and no significant differences were observed between ethanol-fed and control animals. Significant plasma immunoreactivity to not only MAA-adducted but also unmodified rat liver proteins (cytosol, microsomes, and especially plasma membrane) were also observed in the ethanol-fed rats.
Conclusions: Long-term ethanol feeding generates circulating antibodies not only against MAA epitopes but possibly also against unmodified, native (self) protein epitopes, suggesting that MAA adducts could trigger harmful autoimmune responses.