Background: Excessive consumption of alcohol contributes to alcoholic liver disease. Fatty liver is the early stage of alcohol-related liver disease. The aim of this study was to search for specific serological biomarkers of alcoholic fatty liver (AFL) compared to healthy controls, non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) and liver fibrosis in a rodent model. Methods. Serum samples derived from animals with AFL, NAFL, or liver fibrosis were characterized and compared using two-dimensional differential gel electrophoresis. A matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight tandem mass spectrometer in conjunction with mascot software was used for protein identification. Subsequently, Western blotting and flexible multi-analyte profiling were used to measure the expressions of the putative biomarkers present in the serum of animals and clinical patients. Results: Eight differential putative biomarkers were identified, and the two most differentiated proteins, including upregulated C-reactive protein (CRP) and downregulated haptoglobin (Hp), were further investigated. Western blotting validated that CRP was dramatically higher in the serum of AFL compared to healthy controls and other animals with liver disease of NAFL or liver fibrosis (p < 0.05). Moreover, we found that CRP and Hp were both lower in liver fibrosis of TAA-induced rats and clinical hepatitis C virus-infected patients. Conclusion: The results suggest that increased levels of CRP are an early sign of AFL in rats. The abnormally elevated CRP induced by ethanol can be used as a biomarker to distinguish AFL from normal or otherwise diseased livers.
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