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Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis and HCC in a Hyperphagic Mouse Accelerated by Western Diet.


Background & aims

How benign liver steatosis progresses to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), fibrosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains elusive. NASH progression entails diverse pathogenic mechanisms and relies on complex cross-talk between multiple tissues such as the gut, adipose tissues, liver, and the brain. Using a hyperphagic mouse fed with a Western diet (WD), we aimed to elucidate the cross-talk and kinetics of hepatic and extrahepatic alterations during NASH-HCC progression, as well as regression.


Hyperphagic mice lacking a functional Alms1 gene (Foz/Foz) and wild-type littermates were fed WD or standard chow for 12 weeks for NASH/fibrosis and for 24 weeks for HCC development. NASH regression was modeled by switching back to normal chow after NASH development.


Foz+WD mice were steatotic within 1 to 2 weeks, developed NASH by 4 weeks, and grade 3 fibrosis by 12 weeks, accompanied by chronic kidney injury. Foz+WD mice that continued on WD progressed to cirrhosis and HCC within 24 weeks and had reduced survival as a result of cardiac dysfunction. However, NASH mice that were switched to normal chow showed NASH regression, improved survival, and did not develop HCC. Transcriptomic and histologic analyses of Foz/Foz NASH liver showed strong concordance with human NASH. NASH was preceded by an early disruption of gut barrier, microbial dysbiosis, lipopolysaccharide leakage, and intestinal inflammation. This led to acute-phase liver inflammation in Foz+WD mice, characterized by neutrophil infiltration and increased levels of several chemokines/cytokines. The liver cytokine/chemokine profile evolved as NASH progressed, with subsequent predominance by monocyte recruitment.


The Foz+WD model closely mimics the pathobiology and gene signature of human NASH with fibrosis and subsequent HCC. Foz+WD mice provide a robust and relevant preclinical model of NASH, NASH-associated HCC, chronic kidney injury, and heart failure.

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