Alcohol inhibits T-cell glucose metabolism and hepatitis in ALDH2-deficient mice and humans: Roles of acetaldehyde and glucocorticoids

Yanhang Gao, Zhou Zhou, Tianyi Ren, Seung Jin Kim, Yong He, Wonhyo Seo, Adrien Guillot, Yanhua Ding, Ruihong Wu, Shuang Shao, Xiaomei Wang, Hong Zhang, Wei Wang, Dechun Feng, Mingjiang Xu, Elaine Han, Wei Zhong, Zhanxiang Zhou, Pal Pacher, Junqi NiuBin Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Objective Aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), a key enzyme to detoxify acetaldehyde in the liver, exists in both active and inactive forms in humans. Individuals with inactive ALDH2 accumulate acetaldehyde after alcohol consumption. However, how acetaldehyde affects T-cell hepatitis remains unknown. Design Wild-type (WT) and Aldh2 knockout (Aldh2-/-) mice were subjected to chronic ethanol feeding and concanavalin A (ConA)-induced T-cell hepatitis. Effects of acetaldehyde on T-cell glucose metabolism were investigated in vitro. Human subjects were recruited for binge drinking and plasma cortisol and corticosterone measurement. Results Ethanol feeding exacerbated ConA-induced hepatitis in WT mice but surprisingly attenuated it in Aldh2-/-mice despite higher acetaldehyde levels in Aldh2-/-mice. Elevation of serum cytokines and their downstream signals in the liver post-ConA injection was attenuated in ethanol-fed Aldh2-/-mice compared to WT mice. In vitro exposure to acetaldehyde inhibited ConA-induced production of several cytokines without affecting their mRNAs in mouse splenocytes. Acetaldehyde also attenuated interferon-γproduction in phytohaemagglutinin-stimulated human peripheral lymphocytes. Mechanistically, acetaldehyde interfered with glucose metabolism in T cells by inhibiting aerobic glycolysis-related signal pathways. Finally, compared to WT mice, ethanol-fed Aldh2-/-mice had higher levels of serum corticosterone, a well-known factor that inhibits aerobic glycolysis. Blockade of corticosterone partially restored ConA-mediated hepatitis in ethanol-fed Aldh2-/-mice. Acute alcohol drinking elevated plasma cortisol and corticosterone levels in human subjects with higher levels in those with inactive ALDH2 than those with active ALDH2. Conclusions ALDH2 deficiency is associated with elevated acetaldehyde and glucocorticoids post-alcohol consumption, thereby inhibiting T-cell activation and hepatitis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1311-1322
Number of pages12
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • AKT
  • Binge drinking
  • Concanavalin A
  • Glucose metabolism
  • Glycolysis
  • T-cell hepatitis


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