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Dig Dis Sci. 2014 Feb;59(2):346-57. doi: 10.1007/s10620-013-2896-2. Epub 2013 Oct 17.

Saturated free fatty acid sodium palmitate-induced lipoapoptosis by targeting glycogen synthase kinase-3β activation in human liver cells.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, The 2nd Affiliated Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, No. 74 Linjiang Road, Chongqing, 400010, China,



Elevated serum saturated fatty acid levels and hepatocyte lipoapoptosis are features of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).


The purpose of this study was to investigate saturated fatty acid induction of lipoapoptosis in human liver cells and the underlying mechanisms.


Human liver L02 and HepG2 cells were treated with sodium palmitate, a saturated fatty acid, for up to 48 h with or without lithium chloride, a glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) inhibitor, or GSK-3β shRNA transfection. Transmission electron microscopy was used to detect morphological changes, flow cytometry was used to detect apoptosis, a colorimetric assay was used to detect caspase-3 activity, and western blot analysis was used to detect protein expression.


The data showed that sodium palmitate was able to induce lipoapoptosis in L02 and HepG2 cells. Western blot analysis showed that sodium palmitate activated GSK-3β protein, which was indicated by dephosphorylation of GSK-3β at Ser-9. However, inhibition of GSK-3β activity with lithium chloride treatment or knockdown of GSK-3β expression with shRNA suppressed sodium palmitate-induced lipoapoptosis in L02 and HepG2 cells. On a molecular level, inhibition of GSK-3β expression or activity suppressed sodium palmitate-induced c-Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) phosphorylation and Bax upregulation, whereas GSK-3β inhibition did not affect endoplasmic reticulum stress-induced activation of unfolded protein response.


The present data demonstrated that saturated fatty acid sodium palmitate-induced lipoapoptosis in human liver L02 and HepG2 cells was regulated by GSK-3β activation, which led to JNK activation and Bax upregulation. This finding indicates that GSK-3β inhibition may be a potential therapeutic target to control NAFLD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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