Elevated de novo lipogenesis, slow liver triglyceride turnover, and clinical correlations in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis patients

J Lipid Res. 2022 Sep;63(9):100250. doi: 10.1016/j.jlr.2022.100250. Epub 2022 Jul 11.


De novo lipogenesis (DNL) converts carbon substrates to lipids. Increased hepatic DNL could contribute to pathogenic liver triglyceride accumulation in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and therefore may be a potential target for pharmacological intervention. Here, we measured hepatic DNL using heavy water in 123 patients with NASH with fibrosis or cirrhosis, calculated the turnover of hepatic triglycerides to allow repeat labeling studies, and determined the associations of hepatic DNL with metabolic, fibrotic, and imaging markers. We found that hepatic DNL was higher in patients with fibrotic NASH [median (IQR), 40.7% contribution to palmitate (32.1, 47.5), n=103] than has been previously reported in healthy volunteers and remained elevated [median (IQR), 36.8% (31.0, 44.5), n=20] in patients with cirrhosis, despite lower liver fat content. We also showed that turnover of intrahepatic triglyceride pools was slow (t½ >10 days). Furthermore, DNL contribution was determined to be independent of liver stiffness by magnetic resonance imaging but was positively associated with the number of large very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles, the size of VLDL, the lipoprotein insulin resistance score, and levels of ApoB100, and trended toward negative associations with the fibrosis markers FIB-4, FibroSure, and APRI. Finally, we found treatment with the acetyl-CoA carboxylase inhibitor firsocostat reduced hepatic DNL at 4 and 12 weeks, using a correction model for residual label that accounts for hepatic triglyceride turnover. Taken together, these data support an important pathophysiological role for elevated hepatic DNL in NASH and demonstrate that response to pharmacological agents targeting DNL can be correlated with pretreatment DNL.

Keywords: Fatty acid synthesis; NASH; acetyl-CoA carboxylase inhibition; de novo lipogenesis; mass spectrometry; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; stable isotope use in humans; tracer kinetics; triglycerides.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Carbon / metabolism
  • Deuterium Oxide / metabolism
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Lipogenesis* / physiology
  • Lipoproteins, VLDL / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Cirrhosis
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / metabolism
  • Palmitates / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Lipoproteins, VLDL
  • Palmitates
  • Triglycerides
  • Carbon
  • Acetyl-CoA Carboxylase
  • Deuterium Oxide