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Liver Int. 2013 Aug;33(7):1056-61. doi: 10.1111/liv.12170. Epub 2013 Apr 25.

Trapping of oxidized LDL in lysosomes of Kupffer cells is a trigger for hepatic inflammation.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands.



Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is characterized by steatosis and inflammation. The transition from steatosis towards NASH represents a key step in pathogenesis, as it will set the stage for further severe liver damage. Under normal conditions, lipoproteins that are endocytosed by Kupffer cells (KCs) are easily transferred from the lysosomes into the cytoplasm. Oxidized LDL (oxLDL) that is taken up by the macrophages in vitro is trapped within the lysosomes, while acetylated LDL (acLDL) is leading to normal lysosomal hydrolysis, resulting in cytoplasmic storage. We have recently demonstrated that hepatic inflammation is correlated with lysosomal trapping of lipids. So far, a link between lysosomal trapping of oxLDL and inflammation was not established. We hypothesized that lysosomal trapping of oxLDL in KCs will lead to hepatic inflammation.


Ldlr(-/-) mice were injected with LDL, acLDL and oxLDL and sacrificed after 2, 6 and 24 h.


Electron microscopy of KCs demonstrated that after oxLDL injection, small lipid inclusions were present inside the lysosomes after all time points and were mostly pronounced after 6 and 24 h. In contrast, no lipid inclusions were present inside KCs after LDL or acLDL injection. Hepatic expression of several inflammatory genes and scavenger receptors was higher after oxLDL injections compared with LDL or acLDL.


These data suggest that trapping of oxLDL inside lysosomes of KCs in vivo is causally linked to increased hepatic inflammatory gene expression. Our novel observations provide new bases for prevention and treatment of NASH.


Kupffer cells; inflammation; liver; lysosomes; oxLDL

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