[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Alpha-1-antitrypsin (a1AT) deficiency is caused by homozygosity for the a1AT mutant Z gene and occurs in 1 in 2000 births. The Z mutation confers an abnormal conformation on the protein, resulting in an accumulation within the endoplasmic reticulum of hepatocytes rather than appropriate secretion. The accumulation of the mutant protein is strikingly heterogeneous within the liver. Homozygous ZZ children and adults have an increased risk of chronic liver disease, which is thought to result from this variable intracellular accumulation of the a1AT mutant Z protein. Previous reports have suggested that autophagy, mitochondrial injury, apoptosis, and other pathways may be involved in the mechanism of hepatocyte injury, although the interplay of these mechanisms in vivo is unclear. In this study, we examine a well-characterized in vivo model of a1AT mutant Z liver injury, the PiZ mouse, to better understand the pathways involved in this disease. The results show an increase in the stimulation of the apoptotic cascade in hepatocytes, the magnitude of which strongly correlates to the absolute amount of the a1AT mutant Z protein accumulated within the individual cell. Increases in apoptotic regulatory proteins are also detected. CONCLUSION: These data, combined with previous work, permit for the first time the construction of a hypothetical hepatocellular injury cascade for this disease involving mitochondrial injury, caspase activation, and apoptosis, which takes into account the heterogeneous nature of the mutant Z protein accumulation within the liver. Further development of this hypothetical cascade will focus future research on this and other metabolic liver diseases.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency is a relatively common but under-recognized genetic disease in which individuals homozygous for the mutant Z disease-associated allele are at risk for the development of liver disease and emphysema. The protein product of the mutant Z gene is synthesized in hepatocytes but accumulates intracellularly rather than being appropriately secreted. The downstream effects of the intracellular accumulation of the mutant Z protein include the formation of unique protein polymers, activation of autophagy, mitochondrial injury, endoplasmic reticulum stress, and caspase activation, which subsequently progress in a cascade, causing chronic hepatocellular injury. The variable clinical presentations among affected individuals suggest an important contribution of genetic and environmental disease modifiers, which are only now being identified. The heterozygous carrier state for the mutant Z gene, found in 1.5% to 3% of the population, is not itself a common cause of liver injury but may be a modifier gene for other liver diseases.
Current Gastroenterology Reports 03/2006; 8(1):14-20. DOI:10.1007/s11894-006-0059-8
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Alpha-1-antitrypsin (alpha1AT) deficiency in its most common form is caused by homozygosity for the alpha1AT mutant Z gene. This gene encodes a mutant Z secretory protein, primarily synthesized in the liver, that assumes an abnormal conformation and accumulates within hepatocytes causing liver cell injury. Studies have shown that mutant alpha1ATZ protein molecules form unique protein polymers. These Z protein polymers have been hypothesized to play a critical role in the pathophysiology of liver injury in this disease, although a lack of quantitative methods to isolate the polymers from whole liver has hampered further analysis. In this study, we demonstrate a quantitative alpha1ATZ polymer isolation technique from whole liver and show that the hepatocellular periodic acid-Schiff-positive globular inclusions that are the histopathological hallmark of this disease are composed almost entirely of the polymerized alpha1ATZ protein. Furthermore, we examine the previously proposed but untested hypothesis that induction of alpha1ATZ polymerization by the heat of physiological fever is part of the mechanism of hepatic alpha1ATZ protein accumulation. The results, however, show that fever-range temperature elevations have no detectable effect on steady-state levels of intrahepatic Z protein polymer in a model in vivo system. In conclusion, methods to separate insoluble protein aggregates from liver can be used for quantitative isolation of alpha1ATZ protein polymers, and the effect of heat from physiological fever may be different in vivo compared with in vitro systems.