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Clin Liver Dis. 2004 Aug;8(3):595-617, x.

Mitochondria in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Virginia Health System, PO Box 800708, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) is associated with fundamental issues of fat metabolism and insulin resistance. These abnormalities have been linked to impairment of ATP homeostasis, and a growing body of literature has reported mitochondrial abnormalities in various forms of hepatic steatosis. The changes are evident as structural abnormalities, including greatly increased size and the development of crystalline inclusions, and are usually regarded as pathologic, reflecting either a protective or degenerative response to injury. Although the relationships between structural changes,decreased mitochondrial function, and disease states are becoming clearer, the molecular basis for the perturbations is not well understood. Oxidative damage is the most likely causative process and may result in alterations of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), stimulated apoptotic pathways, and increased propensity for necrosis.Overall mitochondrial health likely depends on multiple factors including the integrity of the mtDNA, the composition of cellular lipids, lipoprotein trafficking, the balance of pro- and antioxidant factors, and the metabolic demands placed on the liver. Mitochondrial dysfunction may play a role in numerous clinical conditions associated with NAFL, such as hepatocellular carcinoma, lipodystrophy,age-related insulin resistance, gut dysmotility, cryptogenic cirrhosis, a mild form of gaze palsy, and possibly other more severe neurodegenerative diseases. The prominent role of mitochondrial dysfunction in NAFL provides a new and exciting paradigm in which to view this disorder, its complications, and potential dietary and pharmacologic intervention.

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