American journal of physiology. Endocrinology and metabolism

Intracellular lipid content is a key intrinsic determinant for hepatocyte viability and metabolic and inflammatory states in mice.

PMID 23982157


The liver is an essential metabolic organ. In addition to metabolizing glucose and lipids, hepatocytes also secrete various cytokines that modulate both hepatocyte metabolism and liver inflammation. Hepatocyte injury and death and liver inflammation are the major contributors to liver diseases, including nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Anatomic locations have a profound effect on hepatocyte metabolism, and liver zonation describes the metabolic heterogeneity of hepatocytes along the portovenous axis. However, it is unclear whether hepatocyte heterogeneity is affected by intrinsic factors and whether dietary fat, a risk factor for NASH, has distinct detrimental effects on different hepatocyte subpopulations. Here, we showed that mouse livers contained both high-lipid and low-lipid subpopulations of hepatocytes. The high-lipid subpopulation was more susceptible to injury and apoptosis and produced more proinflamatrory cytokines after treatment with endotoxin and saturated fatty acids. Dietary fat consumption further increased fatty acid uptake, intracellular lipid levels, hepatocyte injury and death, and the expression of proinflammatory cytokines in the high-lipid subpopulation. In contrast, dietary fat slightly increased lipid levels, cell death, and expression of proinflammatory cytokines in the low-lipid subpopulation. The low-lipid subpopulation produced more glucose. Fat consumption further activated the gluconeogenic program in the low-lipid, but not the high-lipid, subpopulations. These data suggest that intracellular lipid content is a key intrinsic determinant for hepatocyte heterogeneity of metabolic, inflammatory, and survival states.

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