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A Computational Model of Hepatic Energy Metabolism: Understanding Zonated Damage and Steatosis in NAFLD.

Ashworth, WB; Davies, NA; Bogle, ID; (2016) A Computational Model of Hepatic Energy Metabolism: Understanding Zonated Damage and Steatosis in NAFLD. PLoS Computational Biology , 12 (9) , Article e1005105. 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005105. Green open access


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In non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), lipid build-up and the resulting damage is known to occur more severely in pericentral cells. Due to the complexity of studying individual regions of the sinusoid, the causes of this zone specificity and its implications on treatment are largely ignored. In this study, a computational model of liver glucose and lipid metabolism is presented which treats the sinusoid as the repeating unit of the liver rather than the single hepatocyte. This allows for inclusion of zonated enzyme expression by splitting the sinusoid into periportal to pericentral compartments. By simulating insulin resistance (IR) and high intake diets leading to the development of steatosis in the model, we identify key differences between periportal and pericentral cells accounting for higher susceptibility to pericentral steatosis. Secondly, variation between individuals is seen in both susceptibility to steatosis and in its development across the sinusoid. Around 25% of obese individuals do not show excess liver fat, whilst 16% of lean individuals develop NAFLD. Furthermore, whilst pericentral cells tend to show higher lipid levels, variation is seen in the predominant location of steatosis from pericentral to pan-sinusoidal or azonal. Sensitivity analysis was used to identify the processes which have the largest effect on both total hepatic triglyceride levels and on the sinusoidal location of steatosis. As is seen in vivo, steatosis occurs when simulating IR in the model, predominantly due to increased uptake, along with an increase in de novo lipogenesis. Additionally, concentrations of glucose intermediates including glycerol-3-phosphate increased when simulating IR due to inhibited glycogen synthesis. Several differences between zones contributed to a higher susceptibility to steatosis in pericentral cells in the model simulations. Firstly, the periportal zonation of both glycogen synthase and the oxidative phosphorylation enzymes meant that the build-up of glucose intermediates was less severe in the periportal hepatocyte compartments. Secondly, the periportal zonation of the enzymes mediating β-oxidation and oxidative phosphorylation resulted in excess fats being metabolised more rapidly in the periportal hepatocyte compartments. Finally, the pericentral expression of de novo lipogenesis contributed to pericentral steatosis when additionally simulating the increase in sterol-regulatory element binding protein 1c (SREBP-1c) seen in NAFLD patients in vivo. The hepatic triglyceride concentration was predicted to be most sensitive to inter-individual variation in the activity of enzymes which, either directly or indirectly, determine the rate of free fatty acid (FFA) oxidation. The concentration was most strongly dependent on the rate constants for β-oxidation and oxidative phosphorylation. It also showed moderate sensitivity to the rate constants for processes which alter the allosteric inhibition of β-oxidation by acetyl-CoA. The predominant sinusoidal location of steatosis meanwhile was most sensitive variations in the zonation of proteins mediating FFA uptake or triglyceride release as very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). Neither the total hepatic concentration nor the location of steatosis showed strong sensitivity to variations in the lipogenic rate constants.

Type: Article
Title: A Computational Model of Hepatic Energy Metabolism: Understanding Zonated Damage and Steatosis in NAFLD.
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005105
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005105
Language: English
Additional information: © 2016 Ashworth et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1516994
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