Genes Involved in Fatty Acid Partitioning and Binding, Lipolysis, Monocyte/Macrophage Recruitment, and Inflammation Are Overexpressed in the Human Fatty Liver of Insulin-Resistant Subjects

  1. Jukka Westerbacka1,
  2. Maria Kolak2,
  3. Tuula Kiviluoto3,
  4. Perttu Arkkila4,
  5. Jukka Sirén3,
  6. Anders Hamsten2,
  7. Rachel M. Fisher2 and
  8. Hannele Yki-Järvinen1,5
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Division of Diabetes, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2Atherosclerosis Research Unit, King Gustaf V Research Institute, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3Department of Surgery, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  4. 4Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  5. 5Minerva Foundation Institute for Medical Research, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Address correspondence and reprint requests to Jukka Westerbacka, MD, PhD, Department of Medicine, Division of Diabetes, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 700, Room C418b, FIN-00029 HUCH, Helsinki, Finland. E-mail: jukka.westerbacka{at}


OBJECTIVE—The objective of this study is to quantitate expression of genes possibly contributing to insulin resistance and fat deposition in the human liver.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—A total of 24 subjects who had varying amounts of histologically determined fat in the liver ranging from normal (n = 8) to steatosis due to a nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) (n = 16) were studied. The mRNA concentrations of 21 candidate genes associated with fatty acid metabolism, inflammation, and insulin sensitivity were quantitated in liver biopsies using real-time PCR. In addition, the subjects were characterized with respect to body composition and circulating markers of insulin sensitivity.

RESULTS—The following genes were significantly upregulated in NAFL: peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor (PPAR)γ2 (2.8-fold), the monocyte-attracting chemokine CCL2 (monocyte chemoattractant protein [MCP]-1, 1.8-fold), and four genes associated with fatty acid metabolism (acyl-CoA synthetase long-chain family member 4 [ACSL4] [2.8-fold], fatty acid binding protein [FABP]4 [3.9-fold], FABP5 [2.5-fold], and lipoprotein lipase [LPL] [3.6-fold]). PPARγ coactivator 1 (PGC1) was significantly lower in subjects with NAFL than in those without. Genes significantly associated with obesity included nine genes: plasminogen activator inhibitor 1, PPARγ, PPARδ, MCP-1, CCL3 (macrophage inflammatory protein [MIP]-1α), PPARγ2, carnitine palmitoyltransferase (CPT1A), FABP4, and FABP5. The following parameters were associated with liver fat independent of obesity: serum adiponectin, insulin, C-peptide, and HDL cholesterol concentrations and the mRNA concentrations of MCP-1, MIP-1α, ACSL4, FABP4, FABP5, and LPL.

CONCLUSIONS—Genes involved in fatty acid partitioning and binding, lipolysis, and monocyte/macrophage recruitment and inflammation are overexpressed in the human fatty liver.


  • Published ahead of print at on 17 August 2007. DOI: 10.2337/db07-0156.

  • The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

    • Received March 18, 2007.
    • Accepted August 10, 2007.
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  1. Diabetes vol. 56 no. 11 2759-2765
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