1. Liver biopsy specimens obtained from patients with alcoholic liver disease of varying severity were assayed for lysosomal and microsomal enzyme activities, the results being compared with values previously obtained in control subjects.
2. Analytical subcellular fractionation by sucrose-density-gradient centrifugation was performed on extracts of the biopsies and the properties of the lysosomes, plasma membrane, biliary canaliculi and endoplasmic reticulum membranes were determined. Increased activities of plasma membrane marker enzymes, particularly γ-glutamyl transpeptidase believed to be localized to the biliary canalicular membrane, were demonstrated. These findings were most marked in alcoholic cirrhosis. The centrifugation studies revealed no abnormalities in the properties of these membranes.
3. Although the total activities of the endoplasmic reticulum marker enzyme neutral α-glucosidase were unaltered in alcoholic liver disease, centrifugation studies showed a decrease in the density distribution of the membrane-bound enzyme in cirrhosis indicating an increase in the proportion of smooth endoplasmic reticulum membranes.
4. Apart from a small decrease in activity of certain acid hydrolases in fatty liver and in cirrhosis the activities of the lysosomal enzymes were unaffected by alcoholic liver disease.
5. Measurements of lysosomal integrity and density-gradient-centrifugation studies revealed no significant abnormalities in the various patient groups apart from increased stability and reduced equilibrium density of certain lysosomes in fatty liver. It is concluded that lysosomal disruption is not implicated in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease.