Ethanol-induced alterations of the microtubule cytoskeleton in hepatocytes

Y. Yoon, N. Török, E. Krueger, B. Oswald, M. A. McNiven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Ethanol has been predicted to alter vesicle-based protein traffic in hepatocytes, in part, via a disruption of the microtubule (MT) cytoskeleton. However, information on the effects of chronic ethanol exposure on MT function in vivo is sparse. Therefore the goal of this study was to test for ethanol-induced changes in rat liver tubulin expression, assembly, and cellular organization, using molecular, biochemical and morphological methods. The results of this study showed that tubulin mRNA and protein levels were not altered by ethanol. Tubulin, isolated from control and ethanol-fed rats, showed similar polymerization characteristics as assessed by calculation of the critical concentration for assembly and morphological structure. In contrast, the total amount of assembly-competent tubulin was reduced in livers from ethanol-fed rats compared with control rats when assessed by quantitative immunoblot analysis using a tubulin antibody. In addition, we observed that MT regrowth and organization in cultured hepatocytes treated with cold and nocodazole was markedly impaired by chronic ethanol exposure. In summary, these results indicate that tubulin levels in liver are not reduced by ethanol exposure. While there is a substantial amount of tubulin protein capable of assembling into functional MTs in ethanol-damaged livers, a marked portion of this tubulin is polymerization incompetent. This may explain why these hepatocytes exhibit a reduced number of MTs with an altered organization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G757-G766
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number4 37-4
StatePublished - Apr 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Liver
  • Nocodazole
  • Tubulin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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