A review of the role of ethanol-induced adipose tissue dysfunction in alcohol-associated liver disease

Thiyagarajan Gopal, Weilun Ai, Carol A. Casey, Terrence M. Donohue, Viswanathan Saraswathi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Alcohol-associated liver disease (AALD) encompasses a spectrum of liver diseases that includes simple steatosis, steatohepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. The adverse effects of alcohol in liver and the mechanisms by which ethanol (EtOH) promotes liver injury are well studied. Although liver is known to be the primary organ affected by EtOH exposure, alcohol's effects on other organs are also known to contribute significantly to the development of liver injury. It is becoming increasingly evident that adipose tissue (AT) is an important site of EtOH action. Both AT storage and secretory functions are altered by EtOH. For example, AT lipolysis, stimulated by EtOH, contributes to chronic alcohol-induced hepatic steatosis. Adipocytes secrete a wide variety of biologically active molecules known as adipokines. EtOH alters the secretion of these adipokines from AT, which include cytokines and chemokines that exert paracrine effects in liver. In addition, the level of EtOH-metabolizing enzymes, in particular, CYP2E1, rises in the AT of EtOH-fed mice, which promotes oxidative stress and/or inflammation in AT. Thus, AT dysfunction characterized by increased AT lipolysis and free fatty acid mobilization and altered secretion of adipokines can contribute to the severity of AALD. Of note, moderate EtOH exposure results in AT browning and activation of brown adipose tissue which, in turn, can promote thermogenesis. In this review article, we discuss the direct effects of EtOH consumption in AT and the mechanisms by which EtOH impacts the functions of AT, which, in turn, increases the severity of AALD in animal models and humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1927-1939
Number of pages13
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • AT browning
  • CYP2E1
  • adipokines
  • adipose tissue
  • ethanol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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