High fat diet induced hepatic steatosis and insulin resistance: Role of dysregulated ceramide metabolism

Hepatol Res. 2012 Apr;42(4):412-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1872-034X.2011.00934.x. Epub 2011 Dec 16.


Aim: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an insulin resistance disease that can progress to cirrhosis and liver failure. We hypothesized that in NAFLD, insulin resistance dysregulates lipid metabolism, increasing production of cytotoxic lipids including ceramides, which exacerbate hepatic insulin resistance and injury.

Methods: Long Evans rats were pair-fed low (LFD) or high (HFD) fat diets for 8 weeks. Livers were used to measure lipids, gene expression, insulin receptor binding, integrity of insulin signaling, and pro-inflammatory cytokines. In vitro experiments characterized effects of ceramides on Huh7 cell viability, mitochondrial function, and insulin signaling.

Results: High fat diet feeding caused NAFLD with peripheral and hepatic insulin resistance, increased hepatic expression of pro-ceramide genes, sphingomyelinase activity, and lipid peroxidation, and increased serum ceramide. Ceramide treatment impaired Huh7 cell viability, mitochondrial function, and insulin signaling.

Conclusions: Increased hepatic ceramide generation and release may mediate both hepatic and peripheral insulin resistance in NAFLD.