Role of the spleen in the development of steatohepatitis in high-fat-diet-induced obese rats

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2012 Apr;237(4):461-70. doi: 10.1258/ebm.2011.011230. Epub 2012 Apr 4.


Obesity is considered a systemic low-grade inflammatory state. Although the spleen is the main immune organ with a close anatomical relationship with the liver, its role in the progression of fatty liver disease remains uncertain. Therefore, we sought to clarify the functional role of the spleen in the development of steatohepatitis in high-fat (HF)-diet-induced obese rats. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed HF food and divided into two groups, a splenectomy (SPX) group and a sham-operation (Sham) group. The liver and abdominal white adipose tissue (WAT) were removed one and six months after surgery, and we evaluated the effects of SPX on WAT and HF-induced fatty liver. SPX rats exhibited worse dyslipidemia and inflammatory changes in WAT one month after surgery. Hepatic steatosis and inflammation were accelerated by SPX, based on the time after surgery. At one month after surgery, the tissue triglyceride content increased in SPX rats, compared with Sham controls (P < 0.05). The liver histology also showed a worsening of steatosis in those rats. At six months after SPX, dramatic inflammatory and fibrotic changes were observed in liver tissue sections. Hepatic carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1 was suppressed at one and six months after SPX (P < 0.05 for each). WAT and liver tissue levels of inflammatory markers such as tumor necrosis factor-α, and the expression of Kupffer cells were all increased at six months in SPX rats, compared with Sham controls (P < 0.05 for each). Our results indicate that the preservation of the spleen contributes to the prevention of the progression of hepatic steatosis to steatohepatitis in obese rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Fatty Liver / metabolism*
  • Fatty Liver / pathology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spleen / metabolism*