Journal of lipid research

SphK1 mediates hepatic inflammation in a mouse model of NASH induced by high saturated fat feeding and initiates proinflammatory signaling in hepatocytes.

PMID 26482537


Steatohepatitis occurs in up to 20% of patients with fatty liver disease and leads to its primary disease outcomes, including fibrosis, cirrhosis, and increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. Mechanisms that mediate this inflammation are of major interest. We previously showed that overload of saturated fatty acids, such as that which occurs with metabolic syndrome, induced sphingosine kinase 1 (SphK1), an enzyme that generates sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P). While data suggest beneficial roles for S1P in some contexts, we hypothesized that it may promote hepatic inflammation in the context of obesity. Consistent with this, we observed 2-fold elevation of this enzyme in livers from humans with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and also in mice with high saturated fat feeding, which recapitulated the human disease. Mice exhibited activation of NFκB, elevated cytokine production, and immune cell infiltration. Importantly, SphK1-null mice were protected from these outcomes. Studies in cultured cells demonstrated saturated fatty acid induction of SphK1 message, protein, and activity, and also a requirement of the enzyme for NFκB signaling and increased mRNA encoding TNFα and MCP1. Moreover, saturated fat-induced NFκB signaling and elevation of TNFα and MCP1 mRNA in HepG2 cells was blocked by targeted knockdown of S1P receptor 1, supporting a role for this lipid signaling pathway in inflammation in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.