Background & aims: Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a chronic inflammatory disease that can further progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. However, the key molecular mechanisms behind this process have not been clarified.
Methods: We analyzed human NASH and normal liver tissue samples by RNA-sequencing and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, identifying hepatocyte cytosolic protein Myc-interacting zinc-finger protein 1 (Miz1) as a potential target in NASH progression. We established a Western diet+fructose-induced NASH model in hepatocyte-specific Miz1 knockout and adeno-associated virus type 8-overexpressing mice. Human NASH liver organoids were used to confirm the mechanism, and immunoprecipitation and mass spectrometry were used to detect proteins that could interact with Miz1.
Results: We demonstrate that Miz1 is reduced in hepatocytes in human NASH. Miz1 is shown to bind to peroxiredoxin 6 (PRDX6), retaining it in the cytosol, blocking its interaction with mitochondrial Parkin at Cys431, and inhibiting Parkin-mediated mitophagy. In NASH livers, loss of hepatocyte Miz1 results in PRDX6-mediated inhibition of mitophagy, increased dysfunctional mitochondria in hepatocytes, and production of proinflammatory cytokines, including TNFα, by hepatic macrophages. Crucially, the increased production of TNFα results in a further reduction in hepatocyte Miz1 by E3-ubiquitination. This produces a positive feedback loop of TNFα-mediated hepatocyte Miz1 degradation, resulting in PRDX6-mediated inhibition of hepatocyte mitophagy, with the accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria in hepatocytes and increased macrophage TNFα production.
Conclusions: Our study identified hepatocyte Miz1 as a suppressor of NASH progression via its role in mitophagy; we also identified a positive feedback loop by which TNFα production induces degradation of cytosolic Miz1, which inhibits mitophagy and thus leads to increased macrophage TNFα production. Interruption of this positive feedback loop could be a strategy to inhibit the progression of NASH.
Impact and implications: Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a chronic inflammatory disease that can further develop into cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. However, the key molecular mechanism of this process has not been fully clarified. Herein, we identified a positive feedback loop of macrophage TNFα-mediated hepatocyte Miz1 degradation, resulting in PRDX6-mediated inhibition of hepatocyte mitophagy, aggravation of mitochondrial damage and increased macrophage TNFα production. Our findings not only provide mechanistic insight into NASH progression but also provide potential therapeutic targets for patients with NASH. Our human NASH liver organoid culture is therefore a useful platform for exploring treatment strategies for NASH development.
Keywords: Inflammasome; Inflammation; Macrophages; Mitophagy; Miz1; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH); Parkin; Peroxiredoxin 6 (PRDX6); TNFα.
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