Switch-associated protein 70 protects against nonalcoholic fatty liver disease via suppression of TAK1

Hepatology. 2021 Oct 24. doi: 10.1002/hep.32213. Online ahead of print.


Background and aims: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a progressive disease without known effective drug treatments. Switch-associated protein 70 (SWAP70) is a guanine nucleotide exchange factor that participates in the regulation of many cellular processes. However, the role of SWAP70 in NAFLD remains unclear. This study aimed to identify the function and mechanism of SWAP70 in NAFLD.

Approach and results: The results showed that the expression of SWAP70 was significantly increased in mice and hepatocytes after metabolic stimulation. Overexpression of SWAP70 in hepatocytes suppressed lipid deposition and inflammation, and SWAP70 knockdown created the inverse effect. Using hepatocyte-specific SWAP70 knockout and overexpression mice fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, we demonstrated that SWAP70 suppressed the progression of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis by inhibiting lipid accumulation, inflammatory response and fibrosis. Mechanically, RNA-Seq analysis and immunoprecipitation assays revealed that SWAP70 inhibited the interaction between TAK1 binding protein 1 (TAB1) and transforming growth factor β-activated kinase 1 (TAK1), sequentially suppressed the phosphorylation of TAK1 and subsequent c-Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK)/P38 signaling. Inhibition of TAK1 activation blocked hepatocyte lipid deposition and inflammation caused by SWAP70 knockdown.

Conclusions: SWAP70 is a protective molecule that can suppress the progression of NAFLD by inhibiting hepatic steatosis and inflammation. SWAP70 may be important for mitigating the progression of NAFLD.

Keywords: MAPK; inflammation; metabolic homeostasis; molecular target; nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.