Inhibition of Glycogen Synthase II with RNAi Prevents Liver Injury in Mouse Models of Glycogen Storage Diseases

Mol Ther. 2018 Jul 5;26(7):1771-1782. doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2018.04.023. Epub 2018 Apr 27.


Glycogen storage diseases (GSDs) of the liver are devastating disorders presenting with fasting hypoglycemia as well as hepatic glycogen and lipid accumulation, which could lead to long-term liver damage. Diet control is frequently utilized to manage the potentially dangerous hypoglycemia, but there is currently no effective pharmacological treatment for preventing hepatomegaly and concurrent liver metabolic abnormalities, which could lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular adenoma or carcinoma. In this study, we demonstrate that inhibition of glycogen synthesis using an RNAi approach to silence hepatic Gys2 expression effectively prevents glycogen synthesis, glycogen accumulation, hepatomegaly, fibrosis, and nodule development in a mouse model of GSD III. Mechanistically, reduction of accumulated abnormally structured glycogen prevents proliferation of hepatocytes and activation of myofibroblasts as well as infiltration of mononuclear cells. Additionally, we show that silencing Gys2 expression reduces hepatic steatosis in a mouse model of GSD type Ia, where we hypothesize that the reduction of glycogen also reduces the production of excess glucose-6-phosphate and its subsequent diversion to lipid synthesis. Our results support therapeutic silencing of GYS2 expression to prevent glycogen and lipid accumulation, which mediate initial signals that subsequently trigger cascades of long-term liver injury in GSDs.

Keywords: cirrhosis; fibrosis; hepatomegaly; neoplasia; steatosis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Glucose-6-Phosphate / genetics
  • Glycogen / genetics*
  • Glycogen Storage Disease Type III / genetics*
  • Glycogen Storage Disease Type III / pathology
  • Glycogen Synthase / genetics*
  • Hepatocytes / pathology
  • Hepatomegaly / genetics
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / genetics*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • RNA Interference / physiology*


  • Glucose-6-Phosphate
  • Glycogen
  • Glycogen Synthase