Research Summary: Down Regulation of a Matrix Degrading Cysteine Protease Cathepsin L, by Acetaldehyde: Role of C/EBPα



The imbalance between extra cellular matrix (ECM) synthesis and degradation is critical aspect of various hepatic pathologies including alcohol induced liver fibrosis. This study was carried out to investigate the effect of acetaldehyde on expression of an extra cellular matrix degrading protease cathepsin L (CTSL) in HepG2 cells.

Methodology and Results

We measured the enzymatic activity, protein and, mRNA levels of CTSL in acetaldehyde treated and untreated cells. The binding of CAAT enhancer binding protein α (C/EBP α) to CTSL promoter and its key role in the transcription from this promoter and conferring responsiveness to acetaldehyde was established by site directed mutagenesis, electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays and siRNA technology. Acetaldehyde treatment significantly decreased CTSL activity and protein levels in HepG2 cells. A similar decrease in the mRNA levels and promoter activity was also observed. This decrease by acetaldehyde was attributed to the fall in the liver enriched transcription factor C/EBP α levels and it’s binding to the CTSL promoter. Mutagenesis of C/EBP α binding motifs revealed the key role of this factor in CTSL transcription as well as conferring responsiveness to acetaldehyde. The siRNA mediated silencing of the C/EBP α expression mimicked the effect of acetaldehyde on CTSL levels and its promoter activity. It also abolished the responsiveness of this promoter to acetaldehyde.


Acetaldehyde down regulates the C/EBP α mediated CTSL expression in hepatic cell lines. The decreased expression of CTSL may at least in part contribute to ECM deposition in liver which is a hallmark of alcoholic liver fibrosis.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 8-June-2011

Author(s): Mir R., Chauhan S.


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