Hepatic lipid accumulation: Cause and consequence of dysregulated glucoregulatory hormones

Caroline E. Geisler, Benjamin J. Renquist

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


Fatty liver can be diet, endocrine, drug, virus or genetically induced. Independent of cause, hepatic lipid accumulation promotes systemic metabolic dysfunction. By acting as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) ligands, hepatic non-esterified fatty acids upregulate expression of gluconeogenic, beta-oxidative, lipogenic and ketogenic genes, promoting hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia and ketosis. The typical hormonal environment in fatty liver disease consists of hyperinsulinemia, hyperglucagonemia, hypercortisolemia, growth hormone deficiency and elevated sympathetic tone. These endocrine and metabolic changes further encourage hepatic steatosis by regulating adipose tissue lipolysis, liver lipid uptake, de novo lipogenesis (DNL), beta-oxidation, ketogenesis and lipid export. Hepatic lipid accumulation may be induced by 4 separate mechanisms: (1) increased hepatic uptake of circulating fatty acids, (2) increased hepatic de novo fatty acid synthesis, (3) decreased hepatic beta-oxidation and (4) decreased hepatic lipid export. This review will discuss the hormonal regulation of each mechanism comparing multiple physiological models of hepatic lipid accumulation. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is typified by increased hepatic lipid uptake, synthesis, oxidation and export. Chronic hepatic lipid signaling through PPARgamma results in gene expression changes that allow concurrent activity of DNL and beta-oxidation. The importance of hepatic steatosis in driving systemic metabolic dysfunction is highlighted by the common endocrine and metabolic disturbances across many conditions that result in fatty liver. Understanding the mechanisms underlying the metabolic dysfunction that develops as a consequence of hepatic lipid accumulation is critical to identifying points of intervention in this increasingly prevalent disease state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R1-R21
JournalJournal of Endocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Insulin resistance
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Obesity
  • Peroxisome proliferatoractivated receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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