LRH-1 regulates hepatic lipid homeostasis and maintains arachidonoyl phospholipid pools critical for phospholipid diversity

JCI Insight. 2018 Mar 8;3(5):e96151. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.96151.


Excess lipid accumulation is an early signature of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Although liver receptor homolog 1 (LRH-1) (encoded by NR5A2) is suppressed in human NAFLD, evidence linking this phospholipid-bound nuclear receptor to hepatic lipid metabolism is lacking. Here, we report an essential role for LRH-1 in hepatic lipid storage and phospholipid composition based on an acute hepatic KO of LRH-1 in adult mice (LRH-1AAV8-Cre mice). Indeed, LRH-1-deficient hepatocytes exhibited large cytosolic lipid droplets and increased triglycerides (TGs). LRH-1-deficient mice fed high-fat diet displayed macrovesicular steatosis, liver injury, and glucose intolerance, all of which were reversed or improved by expressing wild-type human LRH-1. While hepatic lipid synthesis decreased and lipid export remained unchanged in mutants, elevated circulating free fatty acid helped explain the lipid imbalance in LRH-1AAV8-Cre mice. Lipidomic and genomic analyses revealed that loss of LRH-1 disrupts hepatic phospholipid composition, leading to lowered arachidonoyl (AA) phospholipids due to repression of Elovl5 and Fads2, two critical genes in AA biosynthesis. Our findings reveal a role for the phospholipid sensor LRH-1 in maintaining adequate pools of hepatic AA phospholipids, further supporting the idea that phospholipid diversity is an important contributor to healthy hepatic lipid storage.

Keywords: Diabetes; Hepatology; Metabolism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acids / metabolism
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases / metabolism
  • Fatty Acid Elongases
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Liver / cytology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / etiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / pathology*
  • Phospholipids / metabolism
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / genetics
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Transgenes / genetics


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • NR5A2 protein, human
  • Nr5a2 protein, mouse
  • Phospholipids
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases
  • FADS2 protein, mouse
  • Acetyltransferases
  • Elovl5 protein, mouse
  • Fatty Acid Elongases