Acyl-Coenzyme A Thioesterase 9 Traffics Mitochondrial Short-Chain Fatty Acids Toward De Novo Lipogenesis and Glucose Production in the Liver

Hepatology. 2020 Sep;72(3):857-872. doi: 10.1002/hep.31409.


Background and aims: Obesity-induced pathogenesis of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is associated with increased de novo lipogenesis (DNL) and hepatic glucose production (HGP) that is due to excess fatty acids. Acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) thioesterase (Acot) family members control the cellular utilization of fatty acids by hydrolyzing (deactivating) acyl-CoA into nonesterified fatty acids and CoASH.

Approach and results: Using Caenorhabditis elegans, we identified Acot9 as the strongest regulator of lipid accumulation within the Acot family. Indicative of a maladaptive function, hepatic Acot9 expression was higher in patients with obesity who had NAFLD and NASH compared with healthy controls with obesity. In the setting of excessive nutrition, global ablation of Acot9 protected mice against increases in weight gain, HGP, steatosis, and steatohepatitis. Supportive of a hepatic function, the liver-specific deletion of Acot9 inhibited HGP and steatosis in mice without affecting diet-induced weight gain. By contrast, the rescue of Acot9 expression only in the livers of Acot9 knockout mice was sufficient to promote HGP and steatosis. Mechanistically, hepatic Acot9 localized to the inner mitochondrial membrane, where it deactivated short-chain but not long-chain fatty acyl-CoA. This unique localization and activity of Acot9 directed acetyl-CoA away from protein lysine acetylation and toward the citric acid (TCA) cycle. Acot9-mediated exacerbation of triglyceride and glucose biosynthesis was attributable at least in part to increased TCA cycle activity, which provided substrates for HGP and DNL. β-oxidation and ketone body production, which depend on long-chain fatty acyl-CoA, were not regulated by Acot9.

Conclusions: Taken together, our findings indicate that Acot9 channels hepatic acyl-CoAs toward increased HGP and DNL under the pathophysiology of obesity. Therefore, Acot9 represents a target for the management of NAFLD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acyl Coenzyme A / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Drug Discovery
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Fatty Liver / metabolism*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Glucose / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Lipogenesis*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism*
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Thiolester Hydrolases* / genetics
  • Thiolester Hydrolases* / metabolism


  • Acyl Coenzyme A
  • Fatty Acids
  • Acot9 protein, mouse
  • Thiolester Hydrolases
  • Glucose