Rodent nutritional model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis: species, strain and sex difference studies

J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2003 Nov;18(11):1272-82. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1746.2003.03198.x.


Background and aim: The methionine choline-deficient (MCD) diet leads to steatohepatitis in rodents. The aim of the present study was to investigate species, strain and sex differences in this nutritional model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).

Methods: Male and female Wistar, Long-Evans and Sprague-Dawley rats, and C57/BL6 mice (n = 6 per group) were fed a MCD diet for 4 weeks. Control groups received an identical diet supplemented with choline bitartrate (0.2% w/w) and methionine (0.3% w/w). Liver pathology (steatosis and inflammation) and ultrastructure, liver lipid profile (total lipids, triglycerides, lipid peroxidation products), liver : body mass ratios and serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels were compared between these groups.

Results: The MCD diet-fed male rats developed greater steatosis (P < 0.001), had higher liver lipid content (P < 0.05) and had higher serum ALT levels (P < 0.005) than did female rats. Wistar rats (both sexes) had higher liver lipid levels (P < 0.05), serum ALT levels (P < 0.05), and liver mass : body mass ratios (P < 0.025) than did Long-Evans and Sprague-Dawley rats. In female groups, Wistar rats showed greater fatty change than did the other two strains (P < 0.05). All rats fed the MCD diet developed hepatic steatosis, but necrosis and inflammation were minor features and fibrosis was absent. Compared with Wistar rats, male C57/BL6 mice showed a marked increase in inflammatory foci (P < 0.001), end products of lipid peroxidation (free thiobarbituric acid reactive substances) (P < 0.005), and mitochondrial injury, while showing less steatosis (P < 0.005), lower hepatic triglyceride levels, (P < 0.005) and lower early lipid peroxidation products (conjugated dienes and lipid hydroperoxides; P < 0.005 and P < 0.01, respectively).

Conclusions: The Wistar strain and the male sex are associated with the greatest degree of steatosis in rats subjected to the MCD diet. Of the groups studied, male C57/BL6 mice develop the most inflammation and necrosis, lipid peroxidation, and ultrastructural injury, and best approximate the histological features of NASH.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Animals
  • Choline Deficiency / complications
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Fatty Liver / etiology*
  • Fatty Liver / genetics
  • Fatty Liver / pathology
  • Female
  • Lipid Peroxidation
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / complications*
  • Methionine / deficiency
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sex Factors
  • Species Specificity


  • Methionine
  • Alanine Transaminase