The hypothesis that mictochondrial damage is a significant factor in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease (ALD) was investigated by enzymic analysis of mitochondrial fractions isolated from needle biopsy specimens from control patients, patients with fatty liver due to chronic alcoholism, and from patients with other forms of liver disease. Enzymes associated with the inner and outer mitochondrial membranes showed normal levels in ALD. Enzymes associated with the mitochondrial matrix, glutamate dehydrogenase, malate dehydrogenase and aspartate aminotransferase showed significantly raised levels in ALD, but the levels in patients with non-alcoholic liver disease was normal. In addition, analysis of the mitochondria by sucrose density gradient centrifugation revealed no differences between control tissue and liver from patients with alcoholic liver disease. These results do not indicate that there is significant mitochondrial damage in ALD. The raised mitochondrial matrix enzymes may represent an adaptive response to the ethanol load.
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