Nutritional steatohepatitis is closely associated with dysregulation of lipid metabolism and oxidative stress control. ADH3 is a highly conserved bifunctional enzyme involved in formaldehyde detoxification and termination of nitric oxide signaling. Formaldehyde and nitric oxide are nonenzymatically conjugated with glutathione, which is regenerated after ADH3 metabolizes the conjugates. To clarify roles of ADH3 in nutritional liver diseases, we placed Adh3-null mice on a methionine- and choline-deficient (MCD) diet. The Adh3-null mice developed steatohepatitis more rapidly than wild-type mice, indicating that ADH3 protects liver from nutritional steatohepatitis. NRF2, which is a key regulator of cytoprotective genes against oxidative stress, was activated in the Adh3-null mice with liver damage. In the absence of NRF2, the Adh3 disruption caused severe steatohepatitis by the MCD diet feeding accompanied by significant decrease in glutathione, suggesting cooperative function between ADH3 and NRF2 in the maintenance of cellular glutathione level for cytoprotection. Conversely, with enhanced NRF2 activity, the Adh3 disruption did not cause steatohepatitis but induced steatosis, suggesting that perturbation of lipid metabolism in ADH3-deficiency is not compensated by NRF2. Thus, ADH3 protects liver from steatosis by supporting normal lipid metabolism and prevents progression of steatosis into steatohepatitis by maintaining the cellular glutathione level.
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