In nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), triglycerides accumulate within the liver because the rates of fatty acid accrual by uptake from plasma and de novo synthesis exceed elimination by mitochondrial oxidation and secretion as very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) triglycerides. Thioesterase superfamily member 2 (Them2) is an acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) thioesterase that catalyzes the hydrolysis of fatty acyl-CoAs into free fatty acids plus CoASH. Them2 is highly expressed in the liver, as well as other oxidative tissues. Mice globally lacking Them2 are resistant to diet-induced obesity and hepatic steatosis, and exhibit improved glucose homeostasis. These phenotypes are attributable, at least in part, to roles of Them2 in the suppression of thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue and insulin signaling in skeletal muscle. To elucidate the hepatic function of Them2, we created mice with liver-specific deletion of Them2 (L-Them2-/- ). Although L-Them2-/- mice were not protected against excess weight gain, hepatic steatosis or glucose intolerance, they exhibited marked decreases in plasma triglyceride and apolipoprotein B100 concentrations. These were attributable to reduced rates of VLDL secretion owing to decreased incorporation of plasma-derived fatty acids into triglycerides. The absence of hepatic steatosis in L-Them2-/- mice fed chow was explained by compensatory increases in rates of fatty acid oxidation and by decreased de novo lipogenesis in high fat-fed mice. Consistent with a role for Them2 in hepatic VLDL secretion, THEM2 levels were increased in livers of obese patients with NAFLD characterized by simple steatosis. Conclusion: Them2 functions in the liver to direct fatty acids toward triglyceride synthesis for incorporation into VLDL particles. When taken together with its functions in brown adipose and muscle, these findings suggest that Them2 is a target for the management of NAFLD and dyslipidemia.
© 2018 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.