Betaine modulates oxidative stress, inflammation, apoptosis, autophagy, and Akt/mTOR signaling in methionine-choline deficiency-induced fatty liver disease

Eur J Pharmacol. 2019 Apr 5;848:39-48. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2019.01.043. Epub 2019 Jan 25.


We examined the effects of betaine, an endogenous and dietary methyl donor essential for the methionine-homocysteine cycle, on oxidative stress, inflammation, apoptosis, and autophagy in methionine-choline deficient diet (MCD)-induced non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Male C57BL/6 mice received standard chow (control), standard chow and betaine (1.5% w/v in drinking water), MCD, or MCD and betaine. After six weeks, serum and liver samples were collected for analysis. Betaine reduced MCD-induced increase in liver transaminases and inflammatory infiltration, as well as hepatosteatosis and serum levels of low-density lipoprotein, while it increased that of high-density lipoprotein. MCD-induced hepatic production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species was significantly reduced by betaine, which also improved liver antioxidative defense by increasing glutathione content and superoxide-dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and paraoxonase activity. Betaine reduced the liver expression of proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor and interleukin-6, as well as that of proapoptotic mediator Bax, while increasing the levels of anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10 and antiapoptotic Bcl-2 in MCD-fed mice. In addition, betaine increased the expression of autophagy activators beclin 1, autophagy-related (Atg)4 and Atg5, as well as the presence of autophagic vesicles and degradation of autophagic target sequestosome 1/p62 in the liver of NAFLD mice. The observed effects of betaine coincided with the increase in the hepatic phosphorylation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and its activator Akt. In conclusion, the beneficial effect of betaine in MCD-induced NAFLD is associated with the reduction of liver oxidative stress, inflammation, and apoptosis, and the increase in cytoprotective Akt/mTOR signaling and autophagy.

Keywords: Apoptosis; Autophagy; Betaine; Inflammation; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Oxidative stress.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy / drug effects
  • Autophagy / physiology
  • Betaine / pharmacology
  • Betaine / therapeutic use*
  • Choline Deficiency / complications
  • Choline Deficiency / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / pharmacology
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Inflammation / drug therapy
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Male
  • Methionine / deficiency*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / drug therapy
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / etiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Betaine
  • Methionine
  • mTOR protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases