NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) is one of the most frequent chronic liver diseases worldwide. The metabolic factors associated with NAFLD are also determinants of liver disease progression in chronic HCV (hepatitis C virus) infection. It has been reported that, besides inducing hepatic fatty acid biosynthesis, LXR (liver X receptor) regulates a set of inflammatory genes. We aimed to evaluate the hepatic expression of LXRα and its lipogenic and inflammatory targets in 43 patients with NAFLD, 44 with chronic HCV infection and in 22 with histologically normal liver. Real-time PCR and Western blot analysis were used to determine hepatic expression levels of LXRα and related lipogenic and inflammatory mediators in the study population. We found that the LXRα gene and its lipogenic targets PPAR-γ (peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor-γ), SREBP (sterol-regulatory-element-binding protein)-1c, SREBP-2 and FAS (fatty acid synthase) were overexpressed in the liver of NAFLD and HCV patients who had steatosis. Moreover, up-regulation of inflammatory genes, such as TNF (tumour necrosis factor)-α, IL (interleukin)-6, OPN (osteopontin), iNOS (inducible NO synthase), COX (cyclo-oxygenase)-2 and SOCS (suppressors of cytokine signalling)-3, was observed in NAFLD and HCV patients. Interestingly, TNF-α, IL-6 and osteopontin gene expression was lower in patients with steatohepatitis than in those with steatosis. In conclusion, hepatic expression of LXRα and its related lipogenic and inflammatory genes is abnormally increased in NAFLD and HCV patients with steatosis, suggesting a potential role of LXRα in the pathogenesis of hepatic steatosis in these chronic liver diseases.

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