The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the major site in the cell for protein folding and trafficking and is central to many cellular functions. Failure of the ER's adaptive capacity results in activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR), which intersects with many different inflammatory and stress signaling pathways. These pathways are also critical in chronic metabolic diseases such as obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. The ER and related signaling networks are emerging as a potential site for the intersection of inflammation and metabolic disease.
Whereas in most cases a fatty liver remains free of inflammation, 10%-20% of patients who have fatty liver develop inflammation and fibrosis (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis [NASH]). Inflammation may precede steatosis in certain instances. Therefore, NASH could reflect a disease where inflammation is followed by steatosis. In contrast, NASH subsequent to simple steatosis may be the consequence of a failure of antilipotoxic protection. In both situations, many parallel hits derived from the gut and/or the adipose tissue may promote liver inflammation. Endoplasmic reticulum stress and related signaling networks, (adipo)cytokines, and innate immunity are emerging as central pathways that regulate key features of NASH.
The unfolded protein response (UPR) is activated upon the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) that are sensed by the binding immunoglobulin protein (BiP)/glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78). The accumulation of unfolded proteins sequesters BiP so it dissociates from three ER-transmembrane transducers leading to their activation. These transducers are inositol requiring (IRE) 1α, PKR-like ER kinase (PERK), and activating transcription factor (ATF) 6α. PERK phosphorylates eukaryotic initiation factor 2 alpha (eIF2α) resulting in global mRNA translation attenuation, and concurrently selectively increases the translation of several mRNAs, including the transcription factor ATF4, and its downstream target CHOP. IRE1α has kinase and endoribonuclease (RNase) activities. IRE1α autophosphorylation activates the RNase activity to splice XBP1 mRNA, to produce the active transcription factor sXBP1. IRE1α activation also recruits and activates the stress kinase JNK. ATF6α transits to the Golgi compartment where it is cleaved by intramembrane proteolysis to generate a soluble active transcription factor. These UPR pathways act in concert to increase ER content, expand the ER protein folding capacity, degrade misfolded proteins, and reduce the load of new proteins entering the ER. All of these are geared toward adaptation to resolve the protein folding defect. Faced with persistent ER stress, adaptation starts to fail and apoptosis occurs, possibly mediated through calcium perturbations, reactive oxygen species, and the proapoptotic transcription factor CHOP. The UPR is activated in several liver diseases; including obesity associated fatty liver disease, viral hepatitis, and alcohol-induced liver injury, all of which are associated with steatosis, raising the possibility that ER stress-dependent alteration in lipid homeostasis is the mechanism that underlies the steatosis. Hepatocyte apoptosis is a pathogenic event in several liver diseases, and may be linked to unresolved ER stress. If this is true, restoration of ER homeostasis prior to ER stress-induced cell death may provide a therapeutic rationale in these diseases. Herein we discuss each branch of the UPR and how they may impact hepatocyte function in different pathologic states.
The pathogenesis of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) remains poorly understood. Although apoptosis is a common mechanism of liver injury, the extent and clinical significance of apoptosis in NASH has not been examined. Thus, the aims of this study were to quantify hepatocyte apoptosis in NASH, correlate it with disease severity, and identify possible mechanisms of apoptosis induction.
Hepatocyte apoptosis was assessed in NASH, simple steatosis, alcoholic hepatitis, and controls without liver disease using the TUNEL assay and immunohistochemistry for activated caspases 3 and 7. Liver specimens were also graded according to the magnitude of inflammation and fibrosis.
TUNEL-positive cells were significantly increased in liver biopsy specimens from patients with NASH compared with simple steatosis and controls. Unexpectedly, TUNEL-positive cells were also greater in NASH vs. alcoholic hepatitis. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated active caspases 3 and 7 in NASH specimens, confirming the occurrence of apoptosis in this disease. A positive correlation was observed between hepatocyte apoptosis and hepatic fibrosis and inflammatory activity, respectively. The Fas receptor was strongly expressed in hepatocytes in liver specimens from NASH patients as compared with controls.
Hepatocyte apoptosis is significantly increased in patients with NASH and correlates with disease severity, suggesting that antiapoptotic therapy may be useful in this syndrome.
Calorie-enriched diet and lack of exercise are causing a worldwide surge of obesity, insulin resistance and lipid accretion in liver (i.e. hepatic steatosis), which can lead to steatohepatitis. Steatosis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) can also be induced by drugs such as amiodarone, tamoxifen and some antiretroviral drugs, including stavudine and zidovudine. There is accumulating evidence that mitochondrial dysfunction (more particularly respiratory chain deficiency) plays a key role in the physiopathology of NASH whatever its initial cause. In contrast, the mitochondrial beta-oxidation of fatty acids can be either increased (as in insulin resistance-associated NASH) or decreased (as in drug-induced NASH). However, in both circumstances, generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by the damaged respiratory chain can be augmented. ROS generation in an environment enriched in lipids in turn induces lipid peroxidation which releases highly reactive aldehydic derivatives (e.g. malondialdehyde) that have diverse detrimental effects on hepatocytes and other hepatic cells. In hepatocytes, ROS, reactive nitrogen species and lipid peroxidation products further impair the respiratory chain, either directly or indirectly through oxidative damage to the mitochondrial genome. This consequently leads to the generation of more ROS and a vicious cycle occurs. Mitochondrial dysfunction can also lead to apoptosis or necrosis depending on the energy status of the cell. ROS and lipid peroxidation products also increase the generation of several cytokines (TNF-alpha, TGF-beta, Fas ligand) playing a key role in cell death, inflammation and fibrosis. Recent investigations have shown that some genetic polymorphisms can significantly increase the risk of steatohepatitis and that several drugs can prevent or even reverse NASH. Interestingly, most of these drugs could exert their beneficial effects by improving directly or indirectly mitochondrial function in liver. Finding a drug, which could fully prevent oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in NASH is a major challenge for the next decade.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by hepatic steatosis and varying degrees of necroinflammation. Although chronic oxidative stress, inflammatory cytokines, and insulin resistance have been implicated in the pathogenesis of NAFLD, the mechanisms that underlie the initiation and progression of this disease remain unknown. c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) is activated by oxidants and cytokines and regulates hepatocellular injury and insulin resistance, suggesting that this kinase may mediate the development of steatohepatitis. The presence and function of JNK activation were therefore examined in the murine methionine- and choline-deficient (MCD) diet model of steatohepatitis. Activation of hepatic JNK, c-Jun, and AP-1 signaling occurred in parallel with the development of steatohepatitis in MCD diet-fed mice. Investigations in jnk1 and jnk2 knockout mice demonstrated that jnk1, but not jnk2, was critical for MCD diet-induced JNK activation. JNK promoted the development of steatohepatitis as MCD diet-fed jnk1 null mice had significantly reduced levels of hepatic triglyceride accumulation, inflammation, lipid peroxidation, liver injury, and apoptosis compared with wild-type and jnk2 -/- mice. Ablation of jnk1 led to an increase in serum adiponectin but had no effect on serum levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha. In conclusion, JNK1 is responsible for JNK activation that promotes the development of steatohepatitis in the MCD diet model. These findings also provide additional support for the critical mechanistic involvement of JNK1 overactivation in conditions associated with insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome.
c-Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) is a mitogen-activated protein kinase family member that is activated by diverse stimuli, including cytokines (such as tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-1), reactive oxygen species (ROS), pathogens, toxins, drugs, endoplasmic reticulum stress, free fatty acids, and metabolic changes. Upon activation, JNK induces multiple biologic events through the transcription factor activator protein-1 and transcription-independent control of effector molecules. JNK isozymes regulate cell death and survival, differentiation, proliferation, ROS accumulation, metabolism, insulin signaling, and carcinogenesis in the liver. The biologic functions of JNK are isoform, cell type, and context dependent. Recent studies using genetically engineered mice showed that loss or hyperactivation of the JNK pathway contributes to the development of inflammation, fibrosis, cancer growth, and metabolic diseases that include obesity, hepatic steatosis, and insulin resistance. We review the functions and pathways of JNK in liver physiology and pathology and discuss findings from preclinical studies with JNK inhibitors.
Fatty liver disease associated with chronic alcohol consumption or obesity/type 2 diabetes has emerged as a serious public health problem. Steatosis, accumulation of triglyceride in hepatocytes, is now recognized as a critical "first-hit" in the pathogenesis of liver disease. It is proposed that steatosis "primes" the liver to progress to more severe liver pathologies when individuals are exposed to subsequent metabolic and/or environmental stressors or "second-hits." Genetic risk factors can also influence the susceptibility to and severity of fatty liver disease. Furthermore, oxidative stress, disrupted nitric oxide (NO) signaling, and mitochondrial dysfunction are proposed to be key molecular events that accelerate or worsen steatosis and initiate progression to steatohepatitis and fibrosis. This review article will discuss the following topics regarding the pathobiology and molecular mechanisms responsible for fatty liver disease: (1) the "two-hit" or "multi-hit" hypothesis, (2) the role of mitochondrial bioenergetic defects and oxidant stress, (3) the interplay between NO and mitochondria in fatty liver disease, (4) genetic risk factors and oxidative stress-responsive genes, and (5) the feasibility of antioxidants for treatment.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease represents a spectrum of histopathologic abnormalities, the prevalence of which may be as high as 24% of the population of the United States. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease will play a major role in the science and practice of gastroenterology in the near future. The fundamental derangement in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is insulin resistance, a key component of the metabolic syndrome, which includes type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertriglyceridemia, essential hypertension, low circulating high-density lipoprotein, and obesity. The natural history of fatty liver disease is not always benign, and causality for cirrhosis and chronic liver disease is well-founded in the literature. Treatment strategies are limited and, at present, are primarily focused on weight loss and use of insulin sensitizing agents, including the thiazolidenediones. Recent data clearly implicate hepatic insulin resistance as a culprit in accumulation of free fatty acids as triglycerides in hepatocytes. Hepatic insulin resistance is clearly exacerbated by systemic insulin resistance and impaired handling by skeletal muscle and adipose tissue of both glucose and free fatty acids. The key consequence of hepatic insulin resistance, impaired hepatocyte insulin signal transduction, results in adverse cellular and molecular changes exacerbating hepatocyte triglyceride storage. Cytokines secreted by white adipose tissue, adipokines, have emerged as key players in glucose and fat metabolism previously thought controlled largely by insulin. Modulation of adipokines may aid in further understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
While non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is highly prevalent (15% to 45%) in modern societies, only 10% to 25% of cases develop hepatic fibrosis leading to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease or hepatocellular carcinoma. Apart from pre-existing fibrosis, the strongest predictor of fibrotic progression in NAFLD is steatohepatitis or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The critical features other than steatosis are hepatocellular degeneration (ballooning, Mallory hyaline) and mixed inflammatory cell infiltration. While much is understood about the relationship of steatosis to metabolic factors (over-nutrition, insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, metabolic syndrome, hypoadiponectinemia), less is known about inflammatory recruitment, despite its importance for the perpetuation of liver injury and fibrogenesis. In this review, we present evidence that liver inflammation has prognostic significance in NAFLD. We then consider the origins and components of liver inflammation in NASH. Hepatocytes injured by toxic lipid molecules (lipotoxicity) play a central role in the recruitment of innate immunity involving Toll-like receptors (TLRs), Kupffer cells (KCs), lymphocytes and neutrophils and possibly inflammasome. The key pro-inflammatory signaling pathways in NASH are nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). The downstream effectors include adhesion molecules, chemokines, cytokines and the activation of cell death pathways leading to apoptosis. The upstream activators of NF-κB and JNK are more contentious and may depend on the experimental model used. TLRs are strong contenders. It remains possible that inflammation in NASH originates outside the liver and in the gut microbiota that prime KC/TLR responses, inflamed adipose tissue and circulating inflammatory cells. We briefly review these mechanistic considerations and project their implications for the effective treatment of NASH.
Alcoholic (ALD) and non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases (NAFLD) are clinical conditions leading to hepatocellular injury and inflammation resulting from alcohol consumption, high fat diet, obesity and diabetes, among others. Oxidant stress is a major contributing factor to the pathogenesis of ALD and NAFLD. Multiple studies have shown that generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is key for the progression of fatty liver to steatohepatitis. Cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) plays a critical role in ROS generation and CYP2E1 is also induced by alcohol itself. This review summarizes the role of CYP2E1 in ALD and NAFLD.
The worldwide epidemic of obesity and insulin resistance favors nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Insulin resistance (IR) in the adipose tissue increases lipolysis and the entry of nonesterified fatty acids (NEFAs) in the liver, whereas IR-associated hyperinsulinemia promotes hepatic de novo lipogenesis. However, several hormonal and metabolic adaptations are set up in order to restrain hepatic fat accumulation, such as increased mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation (mtFAO). Unfortunately, these adaptations are usually not sufficient to reduce fat accumulation in liver. Furthermore, enhanced mtFAO without concomitant up-regulation of the mitochondrial respiratory chain (MRC) activity induces reactive oxygen species (ROS) overproduction within different MRC components upstream of cytochrome c oxidase. This event seems to play a significant role in the initiation of oxidative stress and subsequent development of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in some individuals. Experimental investigations also pointed to a progressive reduction of MRC activity during NAFLD, which could impair energy output and aggravate ROS overproduction by the damaged MRC. Hence, developing drugs that further increase mtFAO and restore MRC activity in a coordinated manner could ameliorate steatosis, but also necroinflammation and fibrosis by reducing oxidative stress. In contrast, physicians should be aware that numerous drugs in the current pharmacopoeia are able to induce mitochondrial dysfunction, which could aggravate NAFLD in some patients.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an emerging metabolic-related disorder characterized by fatty infiltration of the liver in the absence of alcohol consumption. NAFLD ranges from simple steatosis to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which might progress to end-stage liver disease. This progression is related to the insulin resistance, which is strongly linked to the metabolic syndrome consisting of central obesity, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension. Earlier, the increased concentration of intracellular fatty acids within hepatocytes leads to steatosis. Subsequently, multifactorial complex interactions between nutritional factors, lifestyle, and genetic determinants promote necrosis, inflammation, fibrosis, and hepatocellular damage. Up to now, many studies have revealed the mechanism associated with insulin resistance, whereas the mechanisms related to the molecular components have been incompletely characterized. This review aims to assess the potential molecular mediators initiating and supporting the progression of NASH to establish precocious diagnosis and to plan more specific treatment for this disease.
An increasing number of reports underscore the frequent association of fibrosclerotic diseases of lung, liver, arterial wall, brain, etc., with the accumulation of oxidatively modified lipids and proteins. A cause-and-effect relationship has been proposed between cellular oxidative damage and increased fibrogenesis based on the fact that experimental treatment with antioxidants either prevents or quenches the fibrotic process. With some peculiarities in the different organs, fibrosclerosis is essentially the result of the interaction of macrophages and extracellular matrix-producing cells. The cross-talk is mediated by fibrogenic cytokines, among which the most important appears to be transforming growth factor beta1 (TGF-beta1). This report describes treatment of different types of macrophage, of both human and murine origin, with 4-hydroxy-2,3-nonenal (HNE) a major aldehyde end product of membrane lipid oxidation found consistently to induce both mRNA expression and synthesis of TGF-beta1. Since increased HNE levels have been demostrated in the cirrhotic liver and in the oxidatively modified low-density human lipoproteins associated with atherosclerosis, the up-regulation of macrophage TGF-beta1 by HNE appears to be involved in the pathogenesis of these and similar diseases characterized by fibrosclerosis.
The pharmacologic approach to disease management has not (as of yet) demonstrated safety and efficacy in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The current article introduces the long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-ω3s), and reviews the evidence and mechanisms by which their increased intake or supplementation may ameliorate NAFLD.
A literature search was performed through Ovid Medline, using such terms as NAFLD, NASH, nonalcoholic, steatosis, polyunsaturated fatty acids, fish oil and omega-3.
The LC-ω3s display pleiotropic properties that are of benefit in cardiovascular disease. Deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids results in hepatic steatosis, whereas fish oil displays powerful hypotriglyceridemic properties. Intake and/or metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids are commonly impaired in NAFLD patients. A number of pre-clinical and clinical studies have demonstrated an ameliorative effect of supplemental fish oil, seal oil and purified LC-ω3s in reducing hepatic lipid content in NAFLD. There is less evidence that hepatic inflammation and fibrosis are safely reduced by LC-ω3s.
Supplementation of LC-ω3s appears to safely reduce nutritional hepatic steatosis in adults. Whether other histopatholgic features of NAFLD also respond to LC-ω3s is being addressed by clinical trials. Any recommendation for omega-3 supplementation in NAFLD/NASH is contingent on these results.
Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is an increasing recognized condition that may progress to end-stage liver disease. There are consistent evidences that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a central role in NASH whatever its origin. Mitochondria are the key controller of fatty acids removal and this is part of an intensive gene program that modifies hepatocytes to counteract the excessive fat storage. Mitochondrial dysfunction participates at different levels in NASH pathogenesis since it impairs fatty liver homeostasis and induces overproduction of ROS that in turn trigger lipid peroxidation, cytokines release and cell death. In this review we briefly recall the role of mitochondria in fat metabolism and energy homeostasis and focus on the role of mitochondrial impairment and uncoupling proteins in the pathophysiology of NASH progression. We suggest that mitochondrial respiratory chain, UCP2 and redox balance cooperate in a common pathway that permits to set down the mitochondrial redox pressure, limits the risk of oxidative damage, and allows the maximal rate of fat removal. When the environmental conditions change and high energy supply occurs, hepatocytes are unable to replace their ATP store and steatosis progress to NASH and cirrhosis. The beneficial effects of some drugs on mitochondrial function are also discussed.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most predominant liver disease worldwide and hepatic manifestation of the metabolic syndrome. Its histology spectrum ranges from steatosis, to steatohepatitis (NASH) that can further progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The increasing incidence of NAFLD has contributed to rising numbers of HCC occurrences. NAFLD progression is governed by genetic susceptibility, environmental factors, lifestyle and features of the metabolic syndrome, many of which overlap with HCC. Gene expression profiling and genome wide association studies have identified novel disease pathways and polymorphisms in genes that may be potential biomarkers of NAFLD progression. However, the multifactorial nature of NAFLD and the limited number of sufficiently powered studies are among the current limitations for validated biomarkers of clinical utility. Further studies incorporating the links between circadian regulation and hepatic metabolism might represent an additional direction in the search for predictive biomarkers of liver disease progression and treatment outcomes.
The spectrum of pathological lesions observed in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is wide and strongly resembles that of alcohol-induced liver disease. It ranges from fatty liver to steatohepatitis, progressive fibrosis and cirrhosis. Hepatocellular carcinoma is a possible complication of NAFLD, but whether it is related to frequently associated metabolic disorders (e.g., overweight, diabetes) or to underlying cirrhosis is unclear. This disease is the result of a multi-factorial process in which insulin resistance seems to play a major role in the initial accumulation of fat in the liver, whereas multiple causes of mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress can induce the secondary occurrence of necroinflammatory lesions and fibrosis. Genetic factors might explain why only some patients with simple steatosis will develop steatohepatitis and fibrosis. Due to the increasing prevalence of obesity in Western countries, NAFLD will possibly be a public health problem and the liver disease of the future.