Toll-like receptor 9 promotes steatohepatitis by induction of interleukin-1beta in mice

Gastroenterology. 2010 Jul;139(1):323-34.e7. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2010.03.052. Epub 2010 Mar 27.


Background & aims: Development of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) involves the innate immune system and is mediated by Kupffer cells and hepatic stellate cells (HSCs). Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) is a pattern recognition receptor that recognizes bacteria-derived cytosine phosphate guanine (CpG)-containing DNA and activates innate immunity. We investigated the role of TLR9 signaling and the inflammatory cytokine interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) in steatohepatitis, fibrosis, and insulin resistance.

Methods: Wild-type (WT), TLR9(-/-), IL-1 receptor (IL-1R)(-/-), and MyD88(-/-) mice were fed a choline-deficient amino acid-defined (CDAA) diet for 22 weeks and then assessed for steatohepatitis, fibrosis, and insulin resistance. Lipid accumulation and cell death were assessed in isolated hepatocytes. Kupffer cells and HSCs were isolated to assess inflammatory and fibrogenic responses, respectively.

Results: The CDAA diet induced NASH in WT mice, characterized by steatosis, inflammation, fibrosis, and insulin resistance. TLR9(-/-) mice showed less steatohepatitis and liver fibrosis than WT mice. Among inflammatory cytokines, IL-1beta production was suppressed in TLR9(-/-) mice. Kupffer cells produced IL-1beta in response to CpG oligodeoxynucleotide. IL-1beta but not CpG-oligodeoxynucleotides, increased lipid accumulation in hepatocytes. Lipid accumulation in hepatocytes led to nuclear factor-kappaB inactivation, resulting in cell death in response to IL-1beta. IL-1beta induced fibrogenic responses in HSCs, including secretion of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1. IL-1R(-/-) mice had reduced steatohepatitis and fibrosis, compared with WT mice. Mice deficient in MyD88, an adaptor molecule for TLR9 and IL-1R signaling, also had reduced steatohepatitis and fibrosis. TLR9(-/-), IL-1R(-/-), and MyD88(-/-) mice had less insulin resistance than WT mice on the CDAA diet.

Conclusions: In a mouse model of NASH, TLR9 signaling induces production of IL-1beta by Kupffer cells, leading to steatosis, inflammation, and fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choline Deficiency / complications
  • Fatty Liver / etiology*
  • Hepatic Stellate Cells / physiology
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Interleukin-1beta / genetics
  • Interleukin-1beta / physiology*
  • Kupffer Cells / physiology
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Liver Cirrhosis, Experimental / etiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88 / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Signal Transduction
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9 / physiology*


  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Myd88 protein, mouse
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tlr9 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 9