Macrophage scavenger receptor 1 mediates lipid-induced inflammation in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

J Hepatol. 2022 May;76(5):1001-1012. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2021.12.012. Epub 2021 Dec 21.


Background & aims: Obesity-associated inflammation is a key player in the pathogenesis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). However, the role of macrophage scavenger receptor 1 (MSR1, CD204) remains incompletely understood.

Methods: A total of 170 NAFLD liver biopsies were processed for transcriptomic analysis and correlated with clinicopathological features. Msr1-/- and wild-type mice were subjected to a 16-week high-fat and high-cholesterol diet. Mice and ex vivo human liver slices were treated with a monoclonal antibody against MSR1. Genetic susceptibility was assessed using genome-wide association study data from 1,483 patients with NAFLD and 430,101 participants of the UK Biobank.

Results: MSR1 expression was associated with the occurrence of hepatic lipid-laden foamy macrophages and correlated with the degree of steatosis and steatohepatitis in patients with NAFLD. Mice lacking Msr1 were protected against diet-induced metabolic disorder, showing fewer hepatic foamy macrophages, less hepatic inflammation, improved dyslipidaemia and glucose tolerance, and altered hepatic lipid metabolism. Upon induction by saturated fatty acids, MSR1 induced a pro-inflammatory response via the JNK signalling pathway. In vitro blockade of the receptor prevented the accumulation of lipids in primary macrophages which inhibited the switch towards a pro-inflammatory phenotype and the release of cytokines such as TNF-ɑ. Targeting MSR1 using monoclonal antibody therapy in an obesity-associated NAFLD mouse model and human liver slices resulted in the prevention of foamy macrophage formation and inflammation. Moreover, we identified that rs41505344, a polymorphism in the upstream transcriptional region of MSR1, was associated with altered serum triglycerides and aspartate aminotransferase levels in a cohort of over 400,000 patients.

Conclusions: Taken together, our data suggest that MSR1 plays a critical role in lipid-induced inflammation and could thus be a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of NAFLD.

Lay summary: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a chronic disease primarily caused by excessive consumption of fat and sugar combined with a lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle. Herein, we show that the macrophage scavenger receptor MSR1, an innate immune receptor, mediates lipid uptake and accumulation in Kupffer cells, resulting in liver inflammation and thereby promoting the progression of NAFLD in humans and mice.

Keywords: NASH; immunometabolism; inflammation; macrophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Lipids
  • Liver / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / genetics
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Lipids