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J Hepatol. 2008 Apr;48(4):638-47. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2007.12.011. Epub 2008 Jan 28.

Hepatic free fatty acids accumulate in experimental steatohepatitis: role of adaptive pathways.

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  • 1Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, ANU Medical School, Australian National University at The Canberra Hospital, ACT, Australia.



We determined the effects of dietary lipid composition on steatohepatitis development with particular attention to the nature of lipid molecules that accumulate in the liver and pathways of hepatic triglyceride synthesis.


Mice were fed methionine and choline deficient (MCD) diets supplemented with 20% fat as lard (saturated) or olive oil (monounsaturated), for 3 weeks.


Irrespective of dietary lipid composition, MCD-fed mice developed steatosis, ballooning degeneration and lobular inflammation. MCD-feeding increased hepatic free fatty acid (FFA) levels 2-3-fold, as well as total triglyceride levels. Hepatic FFA composition was characterized by increased ratio of monounsaturated: saturated FFA. There were reduced nuclear levels of the lipogenic transcription factor sterol regulatory element binding protein-1 in MCD-fed mice, but no consistent reduction in fatty acid synthesis genes (acetyl-CoA carboxylase and fatty acid synthase). Consistent with pathways of hepatic triglyceride synthesis, expression of diacylglycerol acyltransferase-1 and -2 was increased, as were delta-5- and delta-6- fatty acid desaturase mRNA levels.


In this nutritional model of steatohepatitis, accumulation of FFA occurs despite substantial suppression of lipogenesis and induction of triglyceride synthesis genes. Accumulation of FFA supports a lipotoxicity mechanism for liver injury in this form of fatty liver disease.

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