Pathophysiology and Biomarker Potential of Fatty Acid Ethyl Ester Elevation During Alcoholic Pancreatitis

Stacie Vela, Andre Guerra, Gail Farrell, Shubham Trivedi, Hally Chaffin, Christopher Rood, Ravinder Singh, Sergiy Kostenko, Yu Hui Chang, Christine Snozek, Krutika Patel, Biswajit Khatua, Vijay P. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: The role of fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) during human alcoholic pancreatitis is unknown. We compared FAEEs levels with their nonesterified fatty acids (NEFAs) precursors during alcohol intoxication and clinical alcoholic pancreatitis. The pathophysiology underlying FAEEs increase and their role as diagnostic biomarkers for alcoholic pancreatitis was investigated. Methods: A prospective blinded study compared FAEEs, NEFAs, and ethanol blood levels on hospitalization for alcoholic pancreatitis (n = 31), alcohol intoxication (n = 25), and in normal controls (n = 43). Serum FAEEs were measured at admission for nonalcoholic pancreatitis (n = 75). Mechanistic cell and animal studies were done. Results: Median FAEEs were similarly elevated during alcohol intoxication (205 nmol/L; 95% confidence interval [CI], 71.8-515 nmol/L, P < .001) and alcoholic pancreatitis (103.1 nmol/L; 95% CI, 53-689 nmol/L, P < .001) vs controls (1.7 nmol/L; 95% CI, 0.02-4.3 nmol/L) or nonalcoholic pancreatitis (8 nmol/L; 95% CI, 1.1-11.5 nmol/L). Alcoholic pancreatitis increased serum NEFAs (1024 ± 710 μmol/L vs 307 ± 185 μmol/L in controls, P < .05). FAEEs comprised 0.1% to 2% of the parent NEFA concentrations. FAEES correlated strongly with NEFAs independent of ethanol levels in alcoholic pancreatitis but not during alcohol intoxication. On receiver operating characteristic curve analysis for diagnosing alcoholic pancreatitis, the area under the curve for serum FAEEs was 0.87 (95% CI, 0.78-0.95, P < .001). In mice and cells, alcohol administration transiently increased all FAEEs. Oleic acid ethyl ester was the only FAEE with a sustained increase up to 24 hours after intraperitoneal oleic acid plus ethanol administration. Conclusions: The sustained, alcohol-independent, large (20- to 50-fold) increase in circulating FAEEs during alcoholic pancreatitis results from their visceral release and mirrors the 2- to 4-fold increase in parent NEFA. The large areas under the curve of FAEEs on receiver operating characteristic curve analysis supports their role as alcoholic pancreatitis biomarkers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1513-1525
Number of pages13
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Acute
  • Alcohol
  • Fatty Acid
  • Intoxication
  • Marker

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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