Background: There is accumulating evidence that obesity is closely associated with an impaired free fatty acid metabolism as well as with insulin resistance and inflammation. Excessive fatty acid uptake mediated by fatty acid translocase CD36 plays an important role in hepatic steatosis. Molecular hydrogen has been shown to attenuate oxidative stress and improve lipid, glucose and energy metabolism in patients and animal models of hepatic steatosis and atherosclerosis, but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain largely unknown.
Methods: Human hepatoma HepG2 cells were exposed to palmitate-BSA complex after treatment with or without hydrogen for 24 h. The fatty acid uptake was measured by using spectrofluorometry and the lipid content was detected by Oil Red O staining. JNK phosphorylation and CD36 expression were analyzed by Western blot and real-time PCR analyses.
Results: Pretreatment with hydrogen reduced fatty acid uptake and lipid accumulation after palmitate overload in HepG2 cells, which was associated with inhibition of JNK activation. Hydrogen treatment did not alter CD36 mRNA expression but reduced CD36 protein expression.
Conclusion: Hydrogen inhibits fatty acid uptake and lipid accumulation through the downregulation of CD36 at the protein level in hepatic cultured cells, providing insights into the molecular mechanism underlying the hydrogen effects in vivo on lipid metabolism disorders.