Triglyceride Metabolism in the Liver

Compr Physiol. 2017 Dec 12;8(1):1-8. doi: 10.1002/cphy.c170012.


Triglyceride molecules represent the major form of storage and transport of fatty acids within cells and in the plasma. The liver is the central organ for fatty acid metabolism. Fatty acids accrue in liver by hepatocellular uptake from the plasma and by de novo biosynthesis. Fatty acids are eliminated by oxidation within the cell or by secretion into the plasma within triglyceride-rich very low-density lipoproteins. Notwithstanding high fluxes through these pathways, under normal circumstances the liver stores only small amounts of fatty acids as triglycerides. In the setting of overnutrition and obesity, hepatic fatty acid metabolism is altered, commonly leading to the accumulation of triglycerides within hepatocytes, and to a clinical condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In this review, we describe the current understanding of fatty acid and triglyceride metabolism in the liver and its regulation in health and disease, identifying potential directions for future research. Advances in understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the hepatic fat accumulation are critical to the development of targeted therapies for NAFLD. © 2018 American Physiological Society. Compr Physiol 8:1-22, 2018.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Lipogenesis / physiology
  • Lipolysis / physiology
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Triglycerides