Effects of Long-Chain and Medium-Chain Fatty Acids on Apoptosis and Oxidative Stress in Human Liver Cells with Steatosis

J Food Sci. 2016 Mar;81(3):H794-800. doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.13210. Epub 2016 Jan 22.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is closely associated with obesity-related metabolic complications, which caused by excess energy intake and physical inactivity apart from genetic defects. The mechanisms that promote disease progression from NAFLD to further liver injury are still unclear. We hypothesize that the progression involved "2nd hit" is strongly influenced by the type of fatty acids in diets. Flow cytometric analysis showed that medium-chain fatty acid (MCFA) markedly decreased the percentage of late apoptotic and necrotic cells compared with long-chain fatty acid (LCFA), and MCFA inhibited the activities of caspase-3 and -9 in human liver cells with steatosis. Western blot analysis found that the levels of inflammatory markers (interleukin [IL]-6, IL-1-β, and tumor necrosis factor-α) were substantially reduced by MCFA compared with LCFA. Proteomic analysis further showed that LCFA inhibited the expression of antioxidant enzymes, and increased the expression of proteins associated with oxidative stress. It was found that LCFA (palmitate), not MCFA induced apoptosis, oxidative stress and chronic inflammatory responses in the hepatic cells with steatosis. In conclusion, reasonable selection of dietary fats has potential to translate therapeutically by ameliorating disease progression in patients with NAFLD.

Keywords: apoptosis; caspase; inflammatory responses; long-chain fatty acid; medium-chain fatty acid; oxidative stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Fats / therapeutic use
  • Disease Progression
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids / therapeutic use
  • Fatty Liver* / diet therapy
  • Fatty Liver* / etiology
  • Fatty Liver* / metabolism
  • Fatty Liver* / pathology
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Necrosis
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Proteomics


  • Antioxidants
  • Cytokines
  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Caspases