Alcoholic liver disease is associated with zinc decrease in the liver. Therefore, we examined whether dietary zinc supplementation could provide protection from alcoholic liver injury. Metallothionein-knockout and wild-type 129/Sv mice were pair-fed an ethanol-containing liquid diet for 12 weeks, and the effects of zinc supplementation on ethanol-induced liver injury were analyzed. Zinc supplementation attenuated ethanol-induced hepatic zinc depletion and liver injury as measured by histopathological and ultrastructural changes, serum alanine transferase activity, and hepatic tumor necrosis factor-α in both metallothionein-knockout and wild-type mice, indicating a metallothionein-independent zinc protection. Zinc supplementation inhibited accumulation of reactive oxygen species, as indicated by dihydroethidium fluorescence, and the consequent oxidative damage, as assessed by immunohistochemical detection of 4-hydroxynonenal and nitrotyrosine and quantitative analysis of malondialdehyde and protein carbonyl in the liver. Zinc supplementation suppressed ethanol-elevated cytochrome P450 2E1 activity but increased the activity of alcohol dehydrogenase in the liver, without affecting the rate of blood ethanol elimination. Zinc supplementation also prevented ethanol-induced decreases in glutathione concentration and glutathione peroxidase activity and increased glutathione reductase activity in the liver.
In conclusion, zinc supplementation prevents alcoholic liver injury in an metallothionein-independent manner by inhibiting the generation of reactive oxygen species (P450 2E1) and enhancing the activity of antioxidant pathways.
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