Hepatic lipid profile in mice fed a choline-deficient, low-methionine diet resembles human non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Lipids Health Dis. 2020 Dec 9;19(1):250. doi: 10.1186/s12944-020-01425-1.


Background: Emerging data support a role for lipids in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in humans. With experimental models such data can be challenged or validated. Mice fed a low-methionine, choline-deficient (LMCD) diet develop NASH and, when injected with diethylnitrosamine (DEN), HCC. Here, lipidomic analysis was used to elucidate whether the NASH and HCC associated lipid derangements resemble the lipid profile of the human disease.

Methods: Lipids were measured in the liver of mice fed a control or a LMCD diet for 16 weeks. DEN was injected at young age to initiate hepatocarcinogenesis. DEN treatment associated changes of the lipid composition and the tumor lipidome were evaluated.

Results: LMCD diet fed mice accumulated ceramides and triacylglycerols in the liver. Phospholipids enriched with monounsaturated fatty acids were also increased, whereas hepatic cholesterol levels remained unchanged in the LMCD model. Phosphatidylcholine and lysophosphatidylcholine concentrations declined in the liver of LMCD diet fed mice. The changes of most lipids associated with LMCD diet feeding were similar between water and DEN injected mice. Several polyunsaturated (PU) diacylglycerol species were already low in the liver of DEN injected mice fed the control diet. Tumors developed in the liver of LMCD diet fed mice injected with DEN. The tumor specific lipid profile, however, did not resemble the decrease of ceramides and PU phospholipids, which was consistently described in human HCC. Triacylglycerols declined in the cancer tissues, which is in accordance with a low expression of lipogenic enzymes in the tumors.

Conclusions: The LMCD model is suitable to study NASH associated lipid reprogramming. Hepatic lipid profile was modestly modified in the DEN injected mice suggesting a function of these derangements in carcinogenesis. Lipid composition of liver tumors did not resemble the human HCC lipidome, and most notably, lipogenesis and triacylglycerol levels were suppressed.

Keywords: Ceramide; Cholesterol; Diethylnitrosamine; Lipogenesis; Liver tumor; Phospholipids.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Ceramides / metabolism
  • Choline / chemistry*
  • Choline Deficiency
  • Diethylnitrosamine / chemistry*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Humans
  • Lipidomics
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Lipogenesis
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / blood
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry
  • Methionine / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / diagnosis*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / pathology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • alpha-Fetoproteins / biosynthesis


  • Ceramides
  • Lipids
  • Lysophosphatidylcholines
  • alpha-Fetoproteins
  • Diethylnitrosamine
  • Methionine
  • Choline