A model of insulin resistance and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in rats: role of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha and n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid treatment on liver injury

Am J Pathol. 2006 Sep;169(3):846-60. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2006.050953.


Insulin resistance induces nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We used a high-fat, high-calorie solid diet (HFD) to create a model of insulin resistance and NASH in nongenetically modified rats and to study the relationship between visceral adipose tissue and liver. Obesity and insulin resistance occurred in HFD rats, accompanied by a progressive increase in visceral adipose tissue tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha mRNA and in circulating free fatty acids. HFD also decreased adiponectin mRNA and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-alpha expression in the visceral adipose tissue and the liver, respectively, and induced hepatic insulin resistance through TNF-alpha-mediated c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK)-dependent insulin receptor substrate-1Ser307 phosphorylation. These modifications lead to hepatic steatosis accompanied by oxidative stress phenomena, necroinflammation, and hepatocyte apoptosis at 4 weeks and by pericentral fibrosis at 6 months. Supplementation of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, a PPARalpha ligand, to HFD-treated animals restored hepatic adiponectin and PPARalpha expression, reduced TNF-alpha hepatic levels, and ameliorated fatty liver and the degree of liver injury. Thus, our model mimics the most common features of NASH in humans and provides an ideal tool to study the role of individual pathogenetic events (as for PPARalpha down-regulation) and to define any future experimental therapy, such as n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, which ameliorated the degree of liver injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Down-Regulation
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / metabolism*
  • Fatty Liver / etiology
  • Fatty Liver / metabolism*
  • Fatty Liver / pathology
  • Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Fibrosis / pathology
  • Food, Formulated / adverse effects
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Liver / injuries
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Necrosis / metabolism
  • Necrosis / pathology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • IRS1 protein, human
  • Insulin Receptor Substrate Proteins
  • Irs1 protein, rat
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases