Chronic alcoholic pancreatitis (CAP) is characterized by progressive pancreatic fibrosis and loss of the acinar cell mass, but the pathogenesis of pancreatic fibrosis in the human is poorly understood. It has been recently suggested that lipid peroxidation-derived aldehydes such as 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE) are involved in tissue damage and fibrosis in other organs. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of oxidative stress in the development of alcohol-induced pancreatic fibrosis in humans, and to assess the contribution of pancreatic periacinar stellate cells (PSC) in the in vivo synthesis of extracellular matrix components during CAP. Lipid peroxidation was evaluated in tissue specimens obtained from patients with CAP who underwent surgical procedures, by immunohistochemistry using a monoclonal antibody directed against HNE-protein adducts. Immunohistochemical determination of collagen type I, α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), and the β subunit of human platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF-Rβ) was also performed. In addition, the tissue mRNA expression of procollagen I, PDGF-Rβ, and transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) was evaluated by in situ hybridization. In CAP, increased formation of HNE-protein adducts was evident in acinar cells adjacent to the interlobular connective tissue that stained positively for collagen type I. HNE staining was absent in normal pancreas. Several non-parenchymal periacinar cells (PSC) underlay the HNE-stained acinar cells. Those PSC stained positively for α-SMA and PDGF-Rβ and showed active synthesis of procollagen type I by in situ expression of the specific mRNAs. The pattern of expression of PDGF-Rβ mRNA reflected that observed in immunostaining, showing increased amounts of transcripts in PSC. TGF-β1 mRNA expression was increased in CAP, but transcripts were found in several cell types including PSC, acinar, and ductal cells. These results indicate that significant lipid peroxidation phenomena occur in CAP and that they are associated with active synthesis of collagen by PSC.
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