Metabolic factors in the development of hepatic steatosis and altered mitochondrial gene expression in vivo

Shaoyun Wang, Amrita Kamat, Pablo Pergola, Anita Swamy, Fermin Tio, Kenneth Cusi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


The objective of the study was to understand the role in vivo of elevated plasma free fatty acids (FFA), insulin, and glucose levels in the development of steatosis and altered mitochondrial gene/protein expression. We studied 4 groups of Sprague-Dawley rats: (1) high-fat diet (HFD), (2) high-dose streptozotocin-induced diabetes (T1DM), (3) low-dose streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats on an HFD (T2DM), and (4) controls. Liver histology and expression of genes/proteins related to mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation and biogenesis were analyzed. Despite an attempt to compensate by increasing expression of genes of fatty acid oxidation (carnitine palmitoyl transferase-1/medium chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase), the HFD and diabetic groups developed marked steatosis and suffered a significant reduction in mitochondrial biogenesis gene expression (nuclear respiratory factor 1/transcriptional factor A, mitochondrial). In T2DM rats, the combination of high glucose and FFA unexpectedly did not lead to greater fat accumulation than HFD alone. Greater steatosis in HFD vs T2DM (P <.001) correlated with impairment in the gene expression of PPAR-α (ie, fatty acid oxidation) and PGC1α, a major coactivator for mitochondrial biogenesis. Steatosis was not severe in insulin-deficient T1DM rats despite very elevated FFA and glucose levels. Increased carnitine palmitoyl transferase-1/medium chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase/PPAR-α gene expression suggested inadequate adaptation to high FFA in both T1DM/T2DM rats. Hyperinsulinemia combined with elevated FFA is the key metabolic factor driving hepatic lipogenesis in vivo (HFD rats). Mitochondrial biogenesis (nuclear respiratory factor 1; transcriptional factor A, mitochondrial) is highly susceptible to FFA-induced steatosis. In contrast, hyperglycemia does not have an additive effect (T2DM) and leads to only a modest degree of steatosis in the absence of hyperinsulinemia, even when FFA are extremely elevated as in T1DM rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1090-1099
Number of pages10
JournalMetabolism: Clinical and Experimental
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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