Acetaldehyde and malonildialdehyde can form hybrid protein adducts, named MAA adducts that have strong immunogenic properties. The formation of MAA adducts in the liver of chronic alcohol-fed rats is associated with the development of circulating antibodies that specifically recognized these adducts. The aim of this study was to examine whether MAA adducts might participate in the immune response associated with human alcohol-induced liver disease. Circulating antibodies against MAA adducts were evaluated in 50 patients with alcohol-induced hepatitis or cirrhosis, in 40 patients with non-alcohol-induced liver disease, in 15 heavy drinkers without liver damage and in 40 healthy controls by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). Immunoglobulin G (IgG) reacting with MAA-modified proteins were significantly increased in the patients with alcohol-induced cirrhosis or hepatitis. The individual levels of anti-MAA IgG in those patients were associated with the severity of liver damage. Anti-MAA antibodies were also positively correlated with the levels of IgG recognizing epitopes generated by acetaldehyde and malonildialdehyde. However, competitive inhibition experiments indicated that the anti-MAA antibodies were unrelated to those against acetaldehyde- or malonildialdehyde-derived antigens and mainly recognized a specific, cyclic MAA epitope. Some degree of immune reactivity towards MAA adducts was also observed in patients with nonalcohol-induced liver injury. However, competitive ELISA showed that the antigens recognized by these sera were not the cyclic MAA adducts. Altogether, these results showed the formation of MAA antigens during alcohol-induced liver disease and suggest their possible contribution to the development of immunologic reactions associated with alcohol-related liver damage.
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