Molecular pathways in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Alba Berlanga,1,* Esther Guiu-Jurado,1,* José Antonio Porras,1,2 Teresa Auguet1,2
1Group GEMMAIR (AGAUR) and Applied Medicine Research Group, Department of Medicine and Surgery, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), IISPV, Hospital Universitari Joan XXIII, Tarragona, Spain; 2Department of Internal Medicine, Hospital Universitari Joan XXIII Tarragona, Tarragona, Spain
*These authors contributed equally to this work
Abstract: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a clinicopathological change characterized by the accumulation of triglycerides in hepatocytes and has frequently been associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, and insulin resistance. It is an increasingly recognized condition that has become the most common liver disorder in developed countries, affecting over one-third of the population and is associated with increased cardiovascular- and liver-related mortality. NAFLD is a spectrum of disorders, beginning as simple steatosis. In about 15% of all NAFLD cases, simple steatosis can evolve into non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a medley of inflammation, hepatocellular injury, and fibrosis, often resulting in cirrhosis and even hepatocellular cancer. However, the molecular mechanism underlying NAFLD progression is not completely understood. Its pathogenesis has often been interpreted by the "double-hit" hypothesis. The primary insult or the "first hit" includes lipid accumulation in the liver, followed by a "second hit" in which proinflammatory mediators induce inflammation, hepatocellular injury, and fibrosis. Nowadays, a more complex model suggests that fatty acids (FAs) and their metabolites may be the true lipotoxic agents that contribute to NAFLD progression; a multiple parallel hits hypothesis has also been suggested. In NAFLD patients, insulin resistance leads to hepatic steatosis via multiple mechanisms. Despite the excess hepatic accumulation of FAs in NAFLD, it has been described that not only de novo FA synthesis is increased, but FAs are also taken up from the serum. Furthermore, a decrease in mitochondrial FA oxidation and secretion of very-low-density lipoproteins has been reported. This review discusses the molecular mechanisms that underlie the pathophysiological changes of hepatic lipid metabolism that contribute to NAFLD.
Keywords: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, molecular pathways, insulin resistance, fatty acid metabolism
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