Mechanism and therapeutic strategy of hepatic TM6SF2-deficient non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases via in vivo and in vitro experiments

World J Gastroenterol. 2022 Jul 7;28(25):2937-2954. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v28.i25.2937.


Background: The lack of effective pharmacotherapies for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is mainly attributed to insufficient research on its pathogenesis. The pathogenesis of TM6SF2-efficient NAFLD remains unclear, resulting in a lack of therapeutic strategies for TM6SF2-deficient patients.

Aim: To investigate the role of TM6SF2 in fatty acid metabolism in the context of fatty liver and propose possible therapeutic strategies for NAFLD caused by TM6SF2 deficiency.

Methods: Liver samples collected from both NAFLD mouse models and human participants (80 cases) were used to evaluate the expression of TM6SF2 by using western blotting, immunohistochemistry, and quantitative polymerase chain reaction. RNA-seq data retrieved from the Gene Expression Omnibus database were used to confirm the over-expression of TM6SF2. Knockdown and overexpression of TM6SF2 were performed to clarify the mechanistic basis of hepatic lipid accumulation in NAFLD. MK-4074 administration was used as a therapeutic intervention to evaluate its effect on NAFLD caused by TM6SF2 deficiency.

Results: Hepatic TM6SF2 levels were elevated in patients with NAFLD and NAFLD mouse models. TM6SF2 overexpression can reduce hepatic lipid accumulation, suggesting a protective role for TM6SF2 in a high-fat diet (HFD). Downregulation of TM6SF2, simulating the TM6SF2 E167K mutation condition, increases intracellular lipid deposition due to dysregulated fatty acid metabolism and is characterized by enhanced fatty acid uptake and synthesis, accompanied by impaired fatty acid oxidation. Owing to the potential effect of TM6SF2 deficiency on lipid metabolism, the application of an acetyl-CoA carboxylase inhibitor (MK-4074) could reverse the NAFLD phenotypes caused by TM6SF2 deficiency.

Conclusion: TM6SF2 plays a protective role in the HFD condition; its deficiency enhanced hepatic lipid accumulation through dysregulated fatty acid metabolism, and MK-4074 treatment could alleviate the NAFLD phenotypes caused by TM6SF2 deficiency.

Keywords: Fatty acid metabolism; MK-4074; Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; TM6SF2; Treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / genetics
  • Lipids
  • Liver / pathology
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / etiology
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / genetics


  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • TM6SF2 protein, human