Zinc is an essential trace element playing fundamental roles in cellular metabolism. It acts mostly by binding a wide range of proteins, thus affecting a broad spectrum of biological processes, which include cell division, growth and differentiation. Zinc is critical to a large number of structural proteins, enzymatic processes, and transcription factors. Zinc deficiency can result in a spectrum of clinical manifestations, such as poor of appetite, loss of body hair, altered taste and smell, testicular atrophy, cerebral and immune dysfunction, and diminished drug elimination capacity. These are common symptoms in patients with chronic liver diseases, especially liver cirrhosis. The liver is the main organ responsible for the zinc metabolism which can be affected by liver diseases. On the other hand, zinc deficiency may alter hepatocyte functions and also immune responses in inflammatory liver diseases. Liver cirrhosis represents the most advanced stage of chronic liver diseases and is the common outcome of chronic liver injury. It is associated with energy malnutrition, with numerous metabolic disorders, such as hypoalbuminemia, with imbalance between branched-chain amino acids and aromatic amino acids, and with reduced zinc serum concentrations. All these processes can influence the clinical outcome of patients, such ascites, hepatic encephalopathy and hepatocellular carcinoma. In the present review, we summarize the emerging evidence on the pitoval role of zinc in the pathogenesis of liver cirrhosis.
Practice of Hepatology, Heydeckstr. 9, Magdeburg, Germany.,
Institute of Molecular and Clinical Immunology, Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany.
Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrinology, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.