Role of mitochondria in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease--from origin to propagation

Clin Biochem. 2012 Jun;45(9):610-8. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2012.03.024. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


Objectives: Mitochondria play a major role in cell energy-generating processes and integrate several signalling pathways to control cellular life and death.

Design and methods: Several liver diseases are characterized by mitochondrial alterations which are directly or indirectly dependent on the activation of intracellular stress cascades or receptor-mediated pathways. This article examines the role of mitochondrial dysfunction in critical initiating or propagating events in fatty liver infiltration and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Genetic variants and the role of drug-induced toxicity have been considered.

Results: Key alterations of mitochondrial physiology associated with hepatocyte fatty changes are described. The value of novel non-invasive diagnostic methods to detect mitochondrial metabolic alterations is also discussed.

Conclusions: Mitochondrial metabolic remodeling is a predominant factor in the appearance and perpetuation of hepatocyte fat accumulation. Non-invasive techniques to identify mitochondrial dysfunction and proper mitochondria protection are two necessary clinical steps for an efficient management of NAFLD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death
  • Cytoprotection
  • Disease Progression
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Fatty Liver / metabolism*
  • Fatty Liver / pathology
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / pathology
  • Humans
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / metabolism*
  • Intra-Abdominal Fat / pathology
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria, Liver / pathology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Rats
  • Risk Factors


  • Fatty Acids