Analysis of gene expression changes during lipid droplet formation in HepG2 human liver cancer cells

Med Int (Lond). 2024 Jan 5;4(1):7. doi: 10.3892/mi.2024.131. eCollection 2024 Jan-Feb.


Fatty liver is a condition of excessive triglyceride accumulation in hepatocytes. Additionally, hepatocytes exhibit a high degree of fat droplet accumulation during excessive alcohol consumption and metabolic syndrome. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in fat droplet formation remain unknown. The present study used an in vitro fatty liver formation model of the human liver cancer cell line, HepG2, to comprehensively search for fat droplet formation-related genes, and which exhibit changes in expression during fat droplet formation. Microarray analysis with extracted total RNA determined the genes that are involved in fat droplet formation and their expression was confirmed using quantitative polymerase chain reaction following the culture of the HepG2 cells in culture medium containing 0, 50, 200 and 500 µM of oleic acid for 24 h. The results revealed 142 genes demonstrating increased expression levels by >2.0-fold with oleic acid treatment and 426 genes demonstrating decreased expression levels. Perilipin 2 (PLIN2) was estimated as the gene most closely associated with fatty liver. Lipid droplet formation in the HepG2 cells induced by oleic acid led to the upregulation of PLIN2 in a concentration-dependent manner. On the whole, the findings of the present study indicate the involvement of genes in oleic acid-induced lipid droplet formation in HepG2 cells; PLIN2 in particular may play a crucial role in this process.

Keywords: HepG2; gene expression; lipid droplet; microarray; oleic acid; perilipin 2.

Grants and funding

Funding: The present study was supported in part by The JSPS KAKENHI (grant nos. 21H04844 and 20K21692).