Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is considered as one of the most prevalent chronic liver diseases worldwide due to the rapidly rising prevalence of obesity and metabolic syndrome. As a hepatic manifestation of metabolic disease, NAFLD begins with hepatic fat accumulation and progresses to hepatic inflammation, termed as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), hepatic fibrosis/cirrhosis, and finally leading to NAFLD-related hepatocellular carcinoma (NAFLD-HCC). Accumulating evidence showed that the gut microbiome plays a vital role in the initiation and progression of NAFLD through the gut-liver axis. The gut-liver axis is the mutual communication between gut and liver comprising the portal circulation, bile duct, and systematic circulation. The gut microbiome dysbiosis contributes to NAFLD development by dysregulating the gut-liver axis, leading to increased intestinal permeability and unrestrained transfer of microbial metabolites into the liver. In this review, we systematically summarized the up-to-date information of gut microbiome dysbiosis and metabolomic changes along the stages of steatosis, NASH, fibrosis, and NAFLD-HCC. The components and functions of the gut-liver axis and its association with NAFLD were then discussed. In addition, we highlighted current knowledge of gut microbiome-based treatment strategies targeting the gut-liver axis for preventing NAFLD and its associated HCC.
Keywords: gut microbiome; gut–liver axis; intestinal barrier; metabolites; non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.