Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become a worldwide epidemic. A large and growing unmet therapeutic need has inspired numerous studies in the field. Integrating the published genomic data available in the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) with NAFLD samples from rodents, we discovered that interferon regulatory factor 6 (IRF6) is significantly downregulated in high-fat diet (HFD)-induced fatty liver. In the current study, we identified IRF6 in hepatocytes as a protective factor in liver steatosis (LS). During HFD challenge, hepatic Irf6 was suppressed by promoter hypermethylation. Severity of HFD-induced LS was exacerbated in hepatocyte-specific Irf6 knockout mice, whereas hepatocyte-specific transgenic mice overexpressing Irf6 (IRF6-HTG) exhibited alleviated steatosis and metabolic disorder in response to HFD feeding. Mechanistic studies in vitro demonstrated that hepatocyte IRF6 directly binds to the promoter of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) gene and subsequently halts the transcription of Pparγ and its target genes (e.g., genes that regulate lipogenesis and lipid acid uptake) under physiological conditions. Conclusion: Irf6 is downregulated by promoter hypermethylation upon metabolic stimulus exposure, which fail to inhibit Pparγ and its targets, driving abnormalities of lipid metabolism.
© 2019 by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.