A strong and highly significant correlation was observed between serum aspartate transaminase (AST) activity and an index of the cytotoxic activity associated with serum proteins modified by acetaldehyde in a group of 24 heavy drinkers. A weaker but significant correlation (R = 0.564, p = 0.008) was found between total serum creatine kinase activity and this index of serum cytotoxicity. As it is likely that the concentration of circulating modified protein was largely determined by the quantity of free acetaldehyde generated in the liver and that the AST activity was mainly derived from damaged hepatocytes, the data indicate a correlation between hepatic acetaldehyde generation and hepatocyte damage. This correlation may indicate either that increased quantities of acetaldehyde are released by damaged hepatocytes or that acetaldehyde is hepatotoxic in vivo. As only the creatine kinase isoenzyme present in skeletal muscle (CK-MM) was demonstrable in the serum in all but one of our patients, the data also suggest that circulating modified serum proteins may be toxic towards skeletal muscle cells.
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