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Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2013 Jul 15;6(8):1585-93. Print 2013.

Effect of chronic psychosocial stress on nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in mice.

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Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital Regensburg, Germany.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by hepatic lipid accumulation which may progress towards inflammation (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)). NAFLD is regarded as a consequence of a sedentary, food-abundant lifestyle which, in the modern world, often coincides with chronically high levels of perceived psychosocial stress. Here, we aimed to characterize the effect of chronic psychosocial stress on the development of NAFLD/NASH in male mice either fed with standard chow or NASH-inducing high fat diet. Chronic psychosocial stress was induced by chronic subordinate colony housing (CSC), a pre-clinically validated paradigm relevant for human affective and somatic disorders. Single housed (SHC) mice served as controls. Under standard chow conditions CSC mice revealed lower hepatic triglyceride levels but higher hepatic TNFα, MCP-1 and HMOX mRNA expression, while serum transaminase levels did not significantly differ from SHC mice. Under the NASH-inducing high-fat diet CSC and SHC mice showed similar body weight-gain and serum levels of glucose and adiponectin. Moreover, liver histology as well as TNFα, MCP-1 and HMOX expression were similar in CSC and SHC mice fed with HFD. Surprisingly, CSC showed even significantly lower transaminase levels than SHC mice fed with the same NASH-inducing diet. Together, these data indicate that under normal dietary conditions the CSC model induces noticeable hepatic oxidative stress and inflammation without causing manifest hepatocellular injury. In contrast, CSC exhibited a protective effect on hepatocellular injury in a dietary NASH-model. Identification of the underlying mechanisms of this phenomenon may lead to novel therapeutic strategies to prevent progression of NAFLD.


Chronic psychosocial stress; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

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