Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)

Hexanoic, Octanoic and Decanoic Acids Promote Basal and Insulin-Induced Phosphorylation of the Akt-mTOR Axis and a Balanced Lipid Metabolism in the HepG2 Hepatoma Cell Line.

PMID 30208604


Metabolic illnesses such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) are in constant increase worldwide. Highly consumed long chain fatty acids (LCFA) are among the most obesogenic and steatogenic nutrients. Hepatic steatosis is associated with several complications such as insulin resistance. Growing evidence points to medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), more efficiently oxidized than LCFA, as a promising dietary alternative against NAFLD. However, reports on the hepatic effects of MCFA are sometimes conflicting. In this study we exposed HepG2 cells, a human hepatocellular model, to 0.25 mM of hexanoic (C6), or octanoic (C8), and decanoic (C10) acids separately or in a C8 + C10 equimolar mix reflecting commercially available MCFA-rich oils. We found that C6, a poorly studied MCFA, as well as C8 and C10 did not provoke the deleterious lipid anabolism runaway typically induced by LCFA palmitate. MCFA tended, instead, to promote a balanced metabolic profile and were generally non-cytotoxic. Accordingly, mitochondrial integrity was mostly preserved following MCFA treatment. However, treatments with C8 induced a mitochondrial membrane potential decrease, suggesting prolonged exposure to this lipid could be problematic. Finally, MCFA treatments maintained optimal insulin sensitivity and even fostered basal and insulin-dependent phosphorylation of the Akt-mTOR pathway. Overall, MCFA could constitute an effective nutritional tool to manage liver steatosis and hepatic insulin resistance.