Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the most common chronic liver disease in the US, partly due to the increasing incidence of metabolic syndrome, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. The roles of bile acids and their receptors, such as the nuclear receptor farnesoid X receptor (FXR) and the G protein-coupled receptor TGR5, on the development of NASH are not fully clear. C57BL/6J male mice fed a Western diet (WD) develop characteristics of NASH, allowing determination of the effects of FXR and TGR5 agonists on this disease. Here we show that the FXR-TGR5 dual agonist INT-767 prevents progression of WD-induced hepatic steatosis, inflammation, and fibrosis, as determined by histological and biochemical assays and novel label-free microscopy imaging techniques, including third harmonic generation, second harmonic generation, and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy. Furthermore, we show INT-767 decreases liver fatty acid synthesis and fatty acid and cholesterol uptake, as well as liver inflammation. INT-767 markedly changed bile acid composition in the liver and intestine, leading to notable decreases in the hydrophobicity index of bile acids, known to limit cholesterol and lipid absorption. In addition, INT-767 upregulated expression of liver p-AMPK, SIRT1, PGC-1α, and SIRT3, which are master regulators of mitochondrial function. Finally, we found INT-767 treatment reduced WD-induced dysbiosis of gut microbiota. Interestingly, the effects of INT-767 in attenuating NASH were absent in FXR-null mice, but still present in TGR5-null mice. Our findings support treatment and prevention protocols with the dual FXR-TGR5 agonist INT-767 arrest progression of WD-induced NASH in mice mediated by FXR-dependent, TGR5-independent mechanisms.
Keywords: FXR-TGR5; NASH; bile acid; fibrosis; inflammation; lipid metabolism.
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