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Metabolic pathways promoting intrahepatic fatty acid accumulation in methionine and choline deficiency: implications for the pathogenesis of steatohepatitis

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E402-E409
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology And Metabolism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


The pathological mechanisms that distinguish simple steatosis from steatohepatitis (or NASH, with consequent risk of cirrhosis and hepatocellular cancer) remain incompletely defined. Whereas both a methionine- and choline-deficient diet (MCDD) and a choline-deficient diet (CDD) lead to hepatic triglyceride accumulation, MCDD alone is associated with hepatic insulin resistance and inflammation (steatohepatitis). We used metabolic tracer techniques, including stable isotope ([13C4]palmitate) dilution and mass isotopomer distribution analysis (MIDA) of [13C2]acetate, to define differences in intrahepatic fatty acid metabolism that could explain the contrasting effect of MCDD and CDD on NASH in C57Bl6 mice. Compared with control-supplemented (CS) diet, liver triglyceride pool sizes were similarly elevated in CDD and MCDD groups (24.37 ± 2.4, 45.94 ± 3.9, and 43.30 ± 3.5 μmol/liver for CS, CDD, and MCDD, respectively), but intrahepatic neutrophil infiltration and plasma alanine aminotransferase (31 ± 3, 48 ± 4, 231 ± 79 U/l, P < 0.05) were elevated only in MCDD mice. However, despite loss of peripheral fat in MCDD mice, neither the rate of appearance of palmitate (27.2 ± 3.5, 26.3 ± 2.3, and 28.3 ± 3.5 μmol·kg−1·min−1) nor the contribution of circulating fatty acids to the liver triglyceride pool differed between groups. Unlike CDD, MCDD had a defect in hepatic triglyceride export that was confirmed using intravenous tyloxapol (142 ± 21, 122 ± 15, and 80 ± 7 mg·kg−1·h−1P < 0.05). Moreover, hepatic de novo lipogenesis was significantly elevated in the MCDD group only (1.4 ± 0.3, 2.3 ± 0.4, and 3.4 ± 0.4 μmol/day, P < 0.01). These findings suggest that important alterations in hepatic fatty acid metabolism may promote the development of steatohepatitis. Similar mechanisms may predispose to hepatocyte damage in human NASH.

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