Sulforaphane Attenuates Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease by Inhibiting Hepatic Steatosis and Apoptosis

Nutrients. 2021 Dec 24;14(1):76. doi: 10.3390/nu14010076.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by lipotoxicity and ectopic lipid deposition within hepatocytes. Sulforaphane (SFA), an active compound used for inhibiting tumors, was found to have the potency to improve lipid metabolism. However, its molecular mechanisms on ameliorating NAFLD are still incompletely understood. This research evaluated if SFA could inhibit hepatic steatosis and apoptosis. The effects of SFA on cell viability, lipid accumulation, triglyceride (TG) contents, apoptosis, ceramide contents, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels were analyzed in palmitic acid (PA)-treated HepG2 cells and high-fat diet (HFD)-fed mice. The related molecular mechanisms were further explored in hepatocytes. The results showed SFA alleviated lipid accumulation and regulated AMPK/SREBP1c/FAS signaling pathway in PA-stressed HepG2 cells. In addition, SFA alleviated PA-mediated apoptosis, downregulated the expressions of cleaved caspase 3, as well as reduced ceramide contents and ROS levels. Moreover, SFA treatment reduced HFD-induced body weight gain, alleviated insulin resistance, decreased serum TG, total cholesterol (TC), and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels, and prevented lipid deposition and apoptosis in the liver. This study showed SFA suppressed lipid deposition and apoptosis both in vitro and in vivo, indicating that SFA may be a potential candidate for preventing and treating NAFLD.

Keywords: apoptosis; hepatic steatosis; lipid; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; sulforaphane.

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Ceramides / metabolism
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Isothiocyanates / pharmacology*
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / drug therapy*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism
  • Palmitic Acid / adverse effects
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1 / metabolism
  • Sulfoxides / pharmacology*
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Ceramides
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 1
  • Sulfoxides
  • Triglycerides
  • Palmitic Acid
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • sulforaphane