Functional heterogeneity of rat hepatic and alveolar macrophages: Effects of chronic ethanol administration

L. A. Morio, H. Chiu, K. A. Sprowles, D. L. Laskin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Chronic ethanol consumption is associated with increased incidence of hepatic and pulmonary infections. To determine if this is correlated with altered macrophage activity, we analyzed the functional properties of cells isolated sequentially from the liver and lung of rats fed a liquid diet containing ethanol (35% of calories) or malto-dextrin control for 9-12 weeks. Hepatic and alveolar macrophages from control animals were found to exhibit distinct morphologic and functional properties. Thus, hepatic macrophages were highly vacuolated and appeared larger and more irregular in shape than alveolar macrophages. These cells also displayed greater phagocytic activity and random migration. In contrast, lung macrophages produced more superoxide anion and nitric oxide, and exhibited enhanced chemotactic activity toward the complement fragment C5a. Whereas administration of ethanol to rats for 9-12 weeks resulted in decreased chemotaxis and superoxide anion production by alveolar macrophages, cell adhesion molecule expression was reduced in hepatic macrophages. Nitric oxide production and inducible nitric oxide synthase protein expression were decreased in both macrophage populations. These effects were not observed after 3-6 weeks of ethanol administration to rats. Our results suggest that changes in macrophage functioning may play a role in decreased host defense following chronic ethanol exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)614-620
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology


  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Kupffer cells
  • Liver
  • Lung
  • Nitric oxide


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