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FEBS J. 2014 Jun;281(11):2503-24. doi: 10.1111/febs.12806. Epub 2014 Apr 28.

Revisiting the metabolic syndrome and paving the way for microRNAs in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

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  • 1Instituto de Investigação do Medicamento (iMed.ULisboa), Faculdade de Farmácia, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) comprises a spectrum of stages from simple steatosis to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, which can progress to fibrosis, cirrhosis and, ultimately, hepatocellular carcinoma. Despite being one of the most common chronic liver diseases, NAFLD pathogenesis remains largely unknown. In this review, we discuss the key molecular mechanisms involved in NAFLD development and progression, focusing on the emerging role of microRNAs. NAFLD is intrinsically related to obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Changes in lipid metabolism increase free fatty acids in blood, which in turn induces peripheral insulin resistance and increases oxidative and endoplasmic reticulum stress. Although not yet considered in the diagnosis of NAFLD, recent reports also reinforce the crucial role of apoptosis in disease progression via activation of either death receptor or mitochondrial pathways and p53. In addition, the role of gut microbiota and the gut-liver axis has been recently associated with NAFLD. Finally, there is an accumulating and growing body of evidence supporting the role of microRNAs in NAFLD pathogenesis and progression, as well as hinting at their use as biomarkers or therapeutic tools. The ultimate goal is to review different molecular pathways that may underlie NAFLD pathogenesis in the hope of finding targets for new and efficient therapeutic interventions.

© 2014 FEBS.


ER stress; NAFLD; apoptosis biomarkers; gut microbiota; insulin resistance; metabolism; miRNAs; oxidative stress

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