A retinoic acid receptor β2 agonist attenuates transcriptome and metabolome changes underlying nonalcohol-associated fatty liver disease

J Biol Chem. 2021 Oct 21;297(6):101331. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2021.101331. Online ahead of print.


Nonalcohol-associated fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by excessive hepatic accumulation of fat that can progress to steatohepatitis, and currently, therapeutic options are limited. Using a high-fat diet (HFD) mouse model of NAFLD, we determined the effects of the synthetic retinoid, AC261066, a selective retinoic acid receptor β2 (RARβ2) agonist, on the global liver transcriptomes and metabolomes of mice with dietary-induced obesity (DIO) using genome-wide RNA-seq and untargeted metabolomics. We found that AC261066 limits mRNA increases in several presumptive NAFLD driver genes, including Pklr, Fasn, Thrsp, and Chchd6. Importantly, AC261066 limits the increases in the transcript and protein levels of KHK, a key enzyme for fructose metabolism, and causes multiple changes in liver metabolites involved in fructose metabolism. In addition, in cultured murine hepatocytes, where exposure to fructose and palmitate results in a profound increase in lipid accumulation, AC261066 limits this lipid accumulation. Importantly, we demonstrate that in a human hepatocyte cell line, RARβ is required for the inhibitory effects of AC261066 on palmitate-induced lipid accumulation. Finally, our data indicate that AC261066 inhibits molecular events underpinning fibrosis and exhibits anti-inflammatory effects. In conclusion, changes in the transcriptome and metabolome indicate that AC261066 affects molecular changes underlying multiple aspects of NAFLD, including steatosis and fibrosis. Therefore, we suggest that AC261066 may have potential as an effective therapy for NAFLD.

Keywords: fructose metabolism; liver steatosis; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; retinoic acid receptor; vitamin A.