Fatty liver is associated with blood pathways of inflammatory response, immune system activation and prothrombotic state in Young Finns Study

Sci Rep. 2018 Jul 9;8(1):10358. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-28563-y.


Fatty liver (FL) disease is the most common type of chronic liver disease. We hypothesized that liver's response to the process where large droplets of triglyceride fat accumulate in liver cells is reflected also in gene pathway expression in blood. Peripheral blood genome wide gene expression analysis and ultrasonic imaging of liver were performed for 1,650 participants (316 individuals with FL and 1,334 controls) of the Young Finns Study. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) was performed for the expression data. Fourteen gene sets were upregulated (false discovery rate, FDR < 0.05) in subjects with FL. These pathways related to extracellular matrix (ECM) turnover, immune response regulation, prothrombotic state and neural tissues. After adjustment for known risk factors and biomarkers of FL, we found i) integrin A4B1 signaling, ii) leukocyte transendothelial migration, iii) CD40/CD40L and iv) netrin-1 signaling pathways to be upregulated in individuals with FL (nominal p < 0.05). From these all but not ii) remained significantly upregulated when analyzing only subjects without history of heavy alcohol use. In conclusion, FL was associated with blood gene sets of ECM turnover, inflammatory response, immune system activation and prothrombotic state. These may form a systemic link between FL and the development of cardiovascular diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • CD40 Antigens / genetics
  • CD40 Antigens / metabolism
  • CD40 Ligand / genetics
  • CD40 Ligand / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Fatty Liver / blood*
  • Fatty Liver / genetics
  • Fatty Liver / pathology
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Immune System / metabolism*
  • Integrin alpha4beta1 / genetics
  • Integrin alpha4beta1 / metabolism
  • Leukocytes / cytology
  • Leukocytes / physiology
  • Liver / diagnostic imaging
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netrin-1 / genetics
  • Netrin-1 / metabolism
  • Risk Factors
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*


  • Biomarkers
  • CD40 Antigens
  • Integrin alpha4beta1
  • CD40 Ligand
  • Netrin-1