Objective We evaluated the influence of sex on the pathophysiology of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We investigated diet-induced phenotypic responses to define sex-specific regulation between healthy liver and NAFLD to identify influential pathways in different preclinical murine models and their relevance in humans.
Design Different models of diet-induced NAFLD (high-fat diet, choline-deficient high-fat diet, Western diet or Western diet supplemented with fructose and glucose in drinking water) were compared with a control diet in male and female mice. We performed metabolic phenotyping, including plasma biochemistry and liver histology, untargeted large-scale approaches (liver metabolome, lipidome and transcriptome), gene expression profiling and network analysis to identify sex-specific pathways in the mouse liver.
Results The different diets induced sex-specific responses that illustrated an increased susceptibility to NAFLD in male mice. The most severe lipid accumulation and inflammation/fibrosis occurred in males receiving the high-fat diet and Western diet, respectively. Sex-biased hepatic gene signatures were identified for these different dietary challenges. The peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα) co-expression network was identified as sexually dimorphic, and in vivo experiments in mice demonstrated that hepatocyte PPARα determines a sex-specific response to fasting and treatment with pemafibrate, a selective PPARα agonist. Liver molecular signatures in humans also provided evidence of sexually dimorphic gene expression profiles and the sex-specific co-expression network for PPARα.
Conclusions These findings underscore the sex specificity of NAFLD pathophysiology in preclinical studies and identify PPARα as a pivotal, sexually dimorphic, pharmacological target.
Trial registration number NCT02390232.
- nonalcoholic steatohepatitis
- liver metabolism
- lipid metabolism
- gene expression
Data availability statement
Data are available in a public, open access repository. Data are available on reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All of the liver gene expression profiling are deposited on public database (Gene expression omnibus). Any other data will be made available on request.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.