Hiroki Nishi, Daisuke Yamanaka, Hiroyasu Kamei, Yuki Goda, Mikako Kumano, Yuka Toyoshima, Asako Takenaka, Masato Masuda, Yasushi Nakabayashi, Ryuji Shioya, Naoyuki Kataoka, Fumihiko Hakuno, Shin-Ichiro Takahashi*


We previously reported that a low-protein diet caused animals to develop fatty liver containing a high level of triglycerides (TG), similar to the human nutritional disorder “kwashiorkor”. To investigate the underlying mechanisms, we cultured hepatocytes in amino acid-sufficient or deficient medium. Surprisingly, the intracellular TG level was increased by amino acid deficiency without addition of any lipids or hormones, accompanied by enhanced lipid synthesis, indicating that hepatocytes themselves monitored the extracellular amino acid concentrations to induce lipid accumulation in a cell-autonomous manner. We then confirmed that a low-amino acid diet also resulted in the development of fatty liver, and supplementation of the low-amino acid diet with glutamic acid to compensate the loss of nitrogen source did not completely suppress the hepatic TG accumulation. Only a dietary arginine or threonine deficiency was sufficient to induce hepatic TG accumulation. However, supplementation of a low-amino acid diet with arginine or threonine failed to reverse it. In silico analysis succeeded in predicting liver TG level from the serum amino acid profile. Based on these results, we conclude that dietary amino acid composition dynamically affects the serum amino acid profile, which is sensed by hepatocytes and lipid synthesis was activated cell-autonomously, leading to hepatic steatosis.

Paper Information

: Scientific Reports
: 10.1038/s41598-018-23640-8