Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most frequent chronic liver disease in Western countries, ranging from simple steatosis to steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular cancer. Although the mechanisms underlying disease progression are incompletely understood, lipotoxic events in the liver resulting in inflammation and fibrosis appear to be central. Free fatty acids and their metabolites are potentially lipotoxic mediators triggering liver injury, suggesting a central role for metabolic lipases. These enzymes are major players in lipid partitioning between tissues and within cells, and provide ligands for nuclear receptors (NRs). We discuss the potential role of intracellular lipases and their lipolytic products in NAFLD. Because tissue-specific modulation of lipases is currently impossible, targeting NRs with ligands may open novel therapeutic perspectives.
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