Glucagon-like peptide 1 decreases lipotoxicity in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis

J Hepatol. 2016 Feb;64(2):399-408. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2015.08.038. Epub 2015 Sep 21.


Background & aims: Insulin resistance and lipotoxicity are pathognomonic in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogues are licensed for type 2 diabetes, but no prospective experimental data exists in NASH. This study determined the effect of a long-acting GLP-1 analogue, liraglutide, on organ-specific insulin sensitivity, hepatic lipid handling and adipose dysfunction in biopsy-proven NASH.

Methods: Fourteen patients were randomised to 1.8mg liraglutide or placebo for 12-weeks of the mechanistic component of a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial ( Patients underwent paired hyperinsulinaemic euglycaemic clamps, stable isotope tracers, adipose microdialysis and serum adipocytokine/metabolic profiling. In vitro isotope experiments on lipid flux were performed on primary human hepatocytes.

Results: Liraglutide reduced BMI (-1.9 vs. +0.04kg/m(2); p<0.001), HbA1c (-0.3 vs. +0.3%; p<0.01), cholesterol-LDL (-0.7 vs. +0.05mmol/L; p<0.01), ALT (-54 vs. -4.0IU/L; p<0.01) and serum leptin, adiponectin, and CCL-2 (all p<0.05). Liraglutide increased hepatic insulin sensitivity (-9.36 vs. -2.54% suppression of hepatic endogenous glucose production with low-dose insulin; p<0.05). Liraglutide increased adipose tissue insulin sensitivity enhancing the ability of insulin to suppress lipolysis both globally (-24.9 vs. +54.8pmol/L insulin required to ½ maximally suppress serum non-esterified fatty acids; p<0.05), and specifically within subcutaneous adipose tissue (p<0.05). In addition, liraglutide decreased hepatic de novo lipogenesis in vivo (-1.26 vs. +1.30%; p<0.05); a finding endorsed by the effect of GLP-1 receptor agonist on primary human hepatocytes (24.6% decrease in lipogenesis vs. untreated controls; p<0.01).

Conclusions: Liraglutide reduces metabolic dysfunction, insulin resistance and lipotoxicity in the key metabolic organs in the pathogenesis of NASH. Liraglutide may offer the potential for a disease-modifying intervention in NASH.

Keywords: Adipose tissue; Glucagon-like peptide 1; Insulin sensitivity; Lipolysis; Non-alcoholic fatty liver.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Monitoring / methods
  • Female
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glucose Clamp Technique / methods
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects*
  • Liraglutide* / administration & dosage
  • Liraglutide* / pharmacokinetics
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / drug therapy
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / metabolism
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / physiopathology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Liraglutide
  • Glucagon-Like Peptide 1

Associated data