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Hepatology. 2014 May;59(5):1791-802. doi: 10.1002/hep.26951. Epub 2014 Mar 27.

Estrogen receptor ligands ameliorate fatty liver through a nonclassical estrogen receptor/Liver X receptor pathway in mice.

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Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.


Liver X receptor (LXR) activation stimulates triglyceride (TG) accumulation in the liver. Several lines of evidence indicate that estradiol-17β (E2) reduces TG levels in the liver; however, the molecular mechanism underlying the E2 effect remains unclear. Here, we show that administration of E2 attenuated sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP)-1 expression and TG accumulation induced by LXR activation in mouse liver. In estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) knockout (KO) and liver-specific ERα KO mice, E2 did not affect SREBP-1 expression or TG levels. Molecular analysis revealed that ERα is recruited to the SREBP-1c promoter through direct binding to LXR and inhibits coactivator recruitment to LXR in an E2-dependent manner. Our findings demonstrate the existence of a novel liver-dependent mechanism controlling TG accumulation through the nonclassical ER/LXR pathway. To confirm that a nonclassical ER/LXR pathway regulates ERα-dependent inhibition of LXR activation, we screened ERα ligands that were able to repress LXR activation without enhancing ERα transcriptional activity, and, as a result, we identified the phytoestrogen, phloretin. In mice, phloretin showed no estrogenic activity; however, it did reduce SREBP-1 expression and TG levels in liver of mice fed a high-fat diet to an extent similar to that of E2.


We propose that ER ligands reduce TG levels in the liver by inhibiting LXR activation through a nonclassical pathway. Our results also indicate that the effects of ER on TG accumulation can be distinguished from its estrogenic effects by a specific ER ligand.

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