Personal model-assisted identification of NAD+ and glutathione metabolism as intervention target in NAFLD

Mol Syst Biol. 2017 Mar 2;13(3):916. doi: 10.15252/msb.20167422.


To elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), we recruited 86 subjects with varying degrees of hepatic steatosis (HS). We obtained experimental data on lipoprotein fluxes and used these individual measurements as personalized constraints of a hepatocyte genome-scale metabolic model to investigate metabolic differences in liver, taking into account its interactions with other tissues. Our systems level analysis predicted an altered demand for NAD+ and glutathione (GSH) in subjects with high HS Our analysis and metabolomic measurements showed that plasma levels of glycine, serine, and associated metabolites are negatively correlated with HS, suggesting that these GSH metabolism precursors might be limiting. Quantification of the hepatic expression levels of the associated enzymes further pointed to altered de novo GSH synthesis. To assess the effect of GSH and NAD+ repletion on the development of NAFLD, we added precursors for GSH and NAD+ biosynthesis to the Western diet and demonstrated that supplementation prevents HS in mice. In a proof-of-concept human study, we found improved liver function and decreased HS after supplementation with serine (a precursor to glycine) and hereby propose a strategy for NAFLD treatment.

Keywords: NAFLD; glutathione; personalized genome‐scale metabolic modeling; serine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Genome
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Glycine / blood
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism*
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Metabolomics / methods*
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • NAD / metabolism*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / diet therapy
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / genetics*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism
  • Patient-Specific Modeling
  • Serine / administration & dosage*
  • Serine / blood
  • Serine / therapeutic use


  • Lipoproteins
  • NAD
  • Serine
  • Glutathione
  • Glycine