Background: Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of pancreatitis in humans. However, rodent models suggest that alcohol only sensitizes the pancreas to subsequent insult, indicating that additional factors play a role in alcohol-induced pancreatic injury. The goal of this study was to determine if an absence of MIST1, a transcription factor required for complete differentiation of pancreatic acinar cells in mice, increased the sensitivity to alcohol. Methods: Two to four month-old mice lacking MIST1 (Mist1 -/-) or congenic C57 Bl6 mice were placed on a Lieber-DeCarli diet (36% of total kcal from ethanol and fat), a control liquid diet (36% kcal from fat) or a regular breeding chow diet (22% kcal from fat). After six weeks, pancreatic morphology was assessed. Biochemical and immunofluorescent analysis was used to assess mediators of the unfolded protein response (UPR). Results: Ethanol-fed Mist1 -/- mice developed periductal accumulations of inflammatory cells that did not appear in wild type or control-fed Mist1 -/- mice. Wild type mice fed diets high in ethanol or fat showed enhancement of the UPR based on increased accumulation of peIF2α and spliced XBP1. These increases were not observed in Mist1 -/- pancreatic tissue, which had elevated levels of UPR activity prior to diet exposure. Indeed, exposure to ethanol resulted in a reduction of UPR activity in Mist1 -/- mice. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that an absence of MIST1 increases the sensitivity to ethanol that correlated with decreased activity of the UPR. Therefore, events that affect the expression and/or function of MIST1 may be confounding factors in pancreatitis. © 2011 Alahari et al.
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