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J Cell Mol Med. 2011 Jun;15(6):1329-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1582-4934.2010.01128.x. Epub 2010 Jul 12.

High fat diet-induced liver steatosis promotes an increase in liver mitochondrial biogenesis in response to hypoxia.

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Department of Clinical and Molecular Hepatology, Institute of Medical Research A Lanari-IDIM, University of Buenos Aires-National Council of Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET), Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number plays a key role in the pathophysiology of metabolic syndrome-related phenotypes, but its role in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is not well understood. We evaluated the molecular mechanisms that may be involved in the regulation of liver mtDNA content in a high-fat-induced rat model of NAFLD. In particular, we tested the hypothesis that liver mtDNA copy number is associated with liver expression of HIF-1α. Rats were given either standard chow diet (SCD, n = 10) or high-fat diet (HFD, n = 15) for 20 weeks. Subsequently, mtDNA quantification using nuclear DNA (nDNA) as a reference was carried out using real time quantitative PCR. HFD induced a significant increase in liver mtDNA/nDNA ratio, which significantly correlated with the liver triglyceride content (R: 0.29, P < 0.05). The liver mtDNA/nDNA ratio significantly correlated with the hepatic expression of HIF-1α mRNA (R: 0.37, P < 0.001); liver HIF-1α mRNA was significantly higher in the HFD group. In addition, liver cytochrome c oxidase subunit IV isoform 1 (COX4I1) mRNA expression was also positively correlated with liver mtDNA content. The hepatic expression of mRNA of transcriptional factors that regulate mitochondrial biogenesis, including peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator-1α (PGC-1α) and PGC-1β, nuclear respiratory factor-1 (NRF-1), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor δ and Tfam, was not associated with the liver mtDNA content. Neither hepatocyte apoptosis nor oxidative stress was involved in the HIF-1α-mediated increase in mtDNA copy number. In conclusion, we found that HFD promotes an increase in liver mitochondrial biogenesis in response to hypoxia via HIF-1α, probably to enhance the mitochondrial function as well as to accommodate the metabolic load.

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