Alcoholic hepatitis is characterised histologically by an intense inflammatory cell infiltrate made up predominantly of neutrophils but including other cell types, particularly lymphocytes. Leukocyte cytotoxicity requires cell adhesion, which is mediated via receptors on the leukocyte surface including leukocyte function associated antigen-1 (LFA-1) which binds to the ligand intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) on the target cell. The distribution of ICAM-1 and LFA-1 expression in liver biopsy specimens from patients with alcoholic liver disease was examined to ascertain whether this pathway of leukocyte adhesion is involved in the tissue damage of alcoholic hepatitis. Specimens were stained for ICAM-1 and LFA-1 by a three step immunoalkaline-phosphatase method using monoclonal antibodies against ICAM-1 and LFA-1. LFA-1 staining on portal tract inflammatory cells and parenchymal inflammatory cells and ICAM-1 staining on liver components were examined. ICAM-1 expression on hepatocytes was significantly greater in alcoholic hepatitis compared with fatty liver (p less than 0.001) and normal controls (p less than 0.01). ICAM-1 expression correlated with the histological degree of hepatocellular damage (tau = 0.79; p = 0.0005) and parenchymal inflammation (tau = 0.65; p less than 0.001, and with LFA-1 expression on parenchymal leukocytes (tau = 0.63; p = 0.01). The ICAM-1/LFA-1 pathway may therefore be involved in leukocyte mediated tissue damage during alcoholic hepatitis.
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