Restoration of lysosomal acidification rescues autophagy and metabolic dysfunction in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Nat Commun. 2023 May 4;14(1):2573. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-38165-6.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disease in the world. High levels of free fatty acids in the liver impair hepatic lysosomal acidification and reduce autophagic flux. We investigate whether restoration of lysosomal function in NAFLD recovers autophagic flux, mitochondrial function, and insulin sensitivity. Here, we report the synthesis of novel biodegradable acid-activated acidifying nanoparticles (acNPs) as a lysosome targeting treatment to restore lysosomal acidity and autophagy. The acNPs, composed of fluorinated polyesters, remain inactive at plasma pH, and only become activated in lysosomes after endocytosis. Specifically, they degrade at pH of ~6 characteristic of dysfunctional lysosomes, to further acidify and enhance the function of lysosomes. In established in vivo high fat diet mouse models of NAFLD, re-acidification of lysosomes via acNP treatment restores autophagy and mitochondria function to lean, healthy levels. This restoration, concurrent with reversal of fasting hyperglycemia and hepatic steatosis, indicates the potential use of acNPs as a first-in-kind therapeutic for NAFLD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Lysosomes / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease* / metabolism