Context: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disease in Western and non-Western countries, but its pathogenesis is not fully understood.
Objective: Based on the role of nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) in fat and glucose metabolism and cell survival, we hypothesized a role for NAMPT/visfatin in the pathogenesis of NAFLD-related disease.
Design and setting: We conducted clinical studies at a referral medical center in well-characterized NAFLD patients (n = 58) and healthy controls (n = 27). In addition we performed experimental in vitro studies in hepatocytes.
Main outcome measures: We examined 1) the hepatic and systemic expression of NAMPT/visfatin in patients with NAFLD and control subjects, 2) the hepatic regulation of NAMPT/visfatin, and 3) the effect of NAMPT/visfatin on hepatocyte apoptosis.
Results: Our main findings were as follows. 1) Patients with NAFLD had decreased NAMPT/visfatin expression both systemically in serum and within the hepatic tissue, with no difference between simple steatosis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. 2) By studying the hepatic regulation of NAMPT/visfatin in wild-type and peroxisome proliferators-activated receptor (PPAR)alpha(-/-) mice as well as in hepatocytes, we showed that PPARalpha activation and glucose may be involved in the down-regulation of hepatic NAMPT/visfatin expression in NAFLD. 4) Within the liver, NAMPT/visfatin was located to hepatocytes, and our in vitro studies showed that NAMPT/visfatin exerts antiapoptotic effects in these cells, involving enzymatic synthesis of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide.
Conclusion: Based on these findings, we suggest a role for decreased NAMPT/visfatin levels in hepatocyte apoptosis in NAFLD-related disease.