Inhibition of sphingosine 1-phosphate signaling ameliorates murine nonalcoholic steatohepatitis

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2017 Mar 1;312(3):G300-G313. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00222.2016. Epub 2016 Dec 30.


Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a lipotoxic disorder, wherein proinflammatory lipids, such as ceramide and its derivative sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), contribute to macrophage-associated liver inflammation. For example, we have previously demonstrated a role for S1P in steatotic hepatocyte-derived S1P-enriched extracellular vesicles in macrophage chemotaxis in vitro. Therefore, we hypothesized that FTY720, an S1P antagonist, would ameliorate NASH by inhibiting proinflammatory monocyte chemotaxis. To test our hypothesis, NASH was established in C57BL/6 male mice by feeding a diet high in fructose, saturated fat, and cholesterol for 22 wk. Then mice received daily intraperitoneal injections of FTY720 for 2 wk before analysis of liver injury, inflammation, and fibrosis. FTY720-treated mice with NASH demonstrated improved liver histology with a significant reduction in hepatocyte ballooning and inflammatory foci. Hepatomegaly was reversed, and liver triglycerides were reduced following FTY720 administration to mice with NASH. Correspondingly, serum ALT levels, hepatic inflammatory macrophage accumulation, and the expression of Ly6C in recruited myeloid cells was reduced in FTY720-treated mice. Hepatic collagen accumulation and expression of α-smooth muscle actin were significantly lowered as well. Body composition, energy consumption and utilization, and hepatic sphingolipid composition remained unchanged following FTY720 administration. FTY720 ameliorates murine nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Reduction in liver injury and inflammation is associated with a reduction in hepatic macrophage accumulation, likely due to dampened recruitment of circulating myeloid cells into the liver. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis may be a novel indication for the therapeutic use of FTY720.NEW & NOTEWORTHY There are no approved pharmacologic therapies for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the leading cause of chronic liver disease worldwide. This study describes the use of FTY720, a novel small molecule, for the amelioration of NASH in a mouse model. We demonstrate that 2-wk administration of FTY720 to mice with NASH led to a reduction in liver injury, inflammation, and fibrosis. These data provide a preclinical rationale for studying this drug in human NASH.

Keywords: FTY720; Kupffer cells; fatty liver; macrophage obesity.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fingolimod Hydrochloride / pharmacology
  • Fingolimod Hydrochloride / therapeutic use*
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Hepatocytes / pathology
  • Hepatomegaly / drug therapy*
  • Hepatomegaly / metabolism
  • Hepatomegaly / pathology
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / drug therapy*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / pathology
  • Receptors, Lysosphingolipid / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Receptors, Lysosphingolipid
  • Triglycerides
  • Fingolimod Hydrochloride