Intestinal permeability in the pathogenesis of liver damage: From non-alcoholic fatty liver disease to liver transplantation

Alberto Nicoletti, Francesca Romana Ponziani, Marco Biolato, Venanzio Valenza, Giuseppe Marrone, Gabriele Sganga, Antonio Gasbarrini, Luca Miele, Antonio Grieco

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The intimate connection and the strict mutual cooperation between the gut and the liver realizes a functional entity called gut-liver axis. The integrity of intestinal barrier is crucial for the maintenance of liver homeostasis. In this mutual relationship, the liver acts as a second firewall towards potentially harmful substances translocated from the gut, and is, in turn, is implicated in the regulation of the barrier. Increasing evidence has highlighted the relevance of increased intestinal permeability and consequent bacterial translocation in the development of liver damage. In particular, in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease recent hypotheses are considering intestinal permeability impairment, diet and gut dysbiosis as the primary pathogenic trigger. In advanced liver disease, intestinal permeability is enhanced by portal hypertension. The clinical consequence is an increased bacterial translocation that further worsens liver damage. Furthermore, this pathogenic mechanism is implicated in most of liver cirrhosis complications, such as spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, hepatorenal syndrome, portal vein thrombosis, hepatic encephalopathy, and hepatocellular carcinoma. After liver transplantation, the decrease in portal pressure should determine beneficial effects on the gut-liver axis, although are incompletely understood data on the modifications of the intestinal permeability and gut microbiota composition are still lacking. How the modulation of the intestinal permeability could prevent the initiation and progression of liver disease is still an uncovered area, which deserves further attention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4814-4834
Number of pages21
JournalWorld Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - Sep 7 2019


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