Metabolic effects of reduced growth hormone action in fatty liver disease

Hepatol Int. 2018 Sep;12(5):474-481. doi: 10.1007/s12072-018-9893-7. Epub 2018 Sep 11.


Background: Adult growth hormone (GH) deficiency is associated with fatty liver disease and shows several features of the metabolic syndrome. Vice versa obesity is characterized as a state of low GH function. Here, we aimed to define the role of hepatic GH signaling and its metabolic consequences in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Methods: In humans, GHR and IGF-1 levels were determined in liver samples of 29 obese patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) or simple steatosis. Cellular effects of GH on insulin signaling were investigated in GH receptor (GHR) knockdown HepG2 cells.

Results: Hepatic IGF-1 expression levels reflecting GH action were significantly lower and fasting glucose concentrations higher in patients with NASH than in patients with simple steatosis. GHR knockdown in hepatocytes resulted in a scenario of high glucose output displayed by reduced glycogen content, increased gluconeogenesis and diminished insulin signaling.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that GH signaling in the liver is diminished in patients with NASH and associated with deteriorated hepatic insulin sensitivity and metabolic activity. Reduced hepatic GH action might contribute to insulin resistance in obese patients with NASH.

Keywords: Growth hormone receptor; Insulin signaling; NASH; obesity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Fatty Liver / etiology
  • Fatty Liver / metabolism*
  • Fatty Liver / pathology
  • Female
  • Frozen Sections
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Liver* / metabolism
  • Liver* / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / etiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / pathology
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Somatotropin / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • IGF1 protein, human
  • Insulin
  • Receptors, Somatotropin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone