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PNAS 101 (29): 10738-10743

Copyright © 2004 by the National Academy of Sciences.


Ethanol toxicity in pancreatic acinar cells: Mediation by nonoxidative fatty acid metabolites

David N. Criddle *, Michael G. T. Raraty {dagger}, John P. Neoptolemos {dagger}, Alexei V. Tepikin *, Ole H. Petersen *, {ddagger}, and Robert Sutton {dagger}

*Physiological Laboratory and {dagger}Department of Surgery, Medical Research Council Secretory Control Research Group, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX, United Kingdom

Communicated by Arnold S. Burgen, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, June 4, 2004

Received for publication January 8, 2004.

Abstract: Ethanol causes pancreatic damage by an unknown mechanism. Previously, we demonstrated that a sustained rise of the cytosolic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) causes pancreatic acinar cell injury. Here we have investigated the effects of ethanol and its metabolites on Ca2+ signaling in pancreatic acinar cells. Most cells exposed to ethanol (up to 850 mM) showed little or no increase in [Ca2+]i (and never at concentrations <50 mM). During sustained exposure to 850 mM ethanol, acetylcholine (ACh) evoked a normal [Ca2+]i elevation and following ACh removal there was a normal and rapid recovery to a low resting level. The oxidative metabolite acetaldehyde (up to 5 mM) had no effect, whereas the nonoxidative unsaturated metabolite palmitoleic acid ethyl ester (10–100 µM, added on top of 850 mM ethanol) induced sustained, concentration-dependent increases in [Ca2+]i that were acutely dependent on external Ca2+ and caused cell death. These actions were shared by the unsaturated metabolite arachidonic acid ethyl ester, the saturated equivalents palmitic and arachidic acid ethyl esters, and the fatty acid palmitoleic acid. In the absence of external Ca2+, releasing all Ca2+ from the endoplasmic reticulum by ACh (10 µM) or the specific Ca2+ pump inhibitor thapsigargin (2 µM) prevented such Ca2+ signal generation. We conclude that nonoxidative fatty acid metabolites, rather than ethanol itself, are responsible for the marked elevations of [Ca2+]i that mediate toxicity in the pancreatic acinar cell and that these compounds act primarily by releasing Ca2+ from the endoplasmic reticulum.

Abbreviations: ACh, acetylcholine; AM, acetoxymethyl ester; BAPTA, 1,2-bis(O-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid; ER, endoplasmic reticulum; [Ca2+]i, free ionized cytosolic calcium concentration; FAEE, fatty acid ethyl ester; POA, palmitoleic acid; POAEE, palmitoleic acid ethyl ester; TPG, thapsigargin.

{ddagger} To whom correspondence should be addressed at: Medical Research Council Secretory Control Research Group, Physiological Laboratory, University of Liverpool, Crown Street, Liverpool L69 3BX, United Kingdom. E-mail: o.h.petersen{at}

© 2004 by The National Academy of Sciences of the USA

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