Alcohol-induced tubulin post-translational modifications directly alter hepatic protein trafficking

Raghabendra Adhikari, Ramyajit Mitra, Robert G. Bennett, Benita L. McVicker, Pamela L. Tuma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic ethanol exposure leads to enhanced protein acetylation and acetaldehyde adduction. Of the multitude of proteins that are modified on ethanol administration, tubulin is among the best studied. However, an open question is whether these modifications are observed in patient samples. Both modifications have also been implicated in promoting alcohol-induced defects in protein trafficking, but whether they do so directly is also unanswered. Methods and Results: We first confirmed that tubulin was hyperacetylated and acetaldehyde-adducted in the livers from ethanol-exposed individuals to a similar extent as observed in the livers from ethanol-fed animals and hepatic cells. Livers from individuals with nonalcohol-associated fatty liver showed modest increases in tubulin acetylation, whereas nonalcohol-associated fibrotic human and mouse livers showed virtually no tubulin modifications. We also asked whether tubulin acetylation or acetaldehyde adduction can directly explain the known alcohol-induced defects in protein trafficking. Acetylation was induced by overexpressing the α-tubulin-specific acetyltransferase, αTAT1, whereas adduction was induced by directly adding acetaldehyde to cells. Both αTAT1 overexpression and acetaldehyde treatment significantly impaired plus-end (secretion) and minus-end (transcytosis)-directed microtubule-dependent trafficking and clathrin-mediated endocytosis. Each modification led to similar levels of impairment as observed in ethanol-treated cells. The levels of impairment by either modification showed no dose dependence or no additive effects suggesting that substoichiometric tubulin modifications lead to altered protein trafficking and that lysines are not selectively modified. Conclusions: These results not only confirm that enhanced tubulin acetylation is observed in human livers but that it is most relevant to alcohol-induced injury. Because these tubulin modifications are associated with altered protein trafficking that alters proper hepatic function, we propose that changing the cellular acetylation levels or scavenging free aldehydes are feasible strategies for treating alcohol-associated liver disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0103
JournalHepatology Communications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


Dive into the research topics of 'Alcohol-induced tubulin post-translational modifications directly alter hepatic protein trafficking'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this