Su, Robin C; Lad, Apurva; Breidenbach, Joshua D; Blomquist, Tho M; Gunning, William T; Dube, Prabhatchandra; Kleinhenz, Andrew L; Malhotra, Deepak; Haller, S T; Kennedy, David J
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a growing global health concern. With a propensity to progress towards non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma, NAFLD is an important link amongst a multitude of comorbidities including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular and kidney disease. As several in vivo models of hyperglycemia and NAFLD are employed to investigate the pathophysiology of this disease process, we aimed to characterize an in vitro model of hyperglycemia that was amenable to address molecular mechanisms and therapeutic targets at the cellular level. Utilizing hyperglycemic cell culturing conditions, we induced steatosis within a human hepatocyte cell line (HepG2 cells), as confirmed by electron microscopy. The deposition and accumulation of lipids within hyperglycemic HepG2 cells is significantly greater than in normoglycemic cells, as visualized and quantified by Nile red staining. Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and alkaline phosphatase (ALP), diagnostic biomarkers for liver damage and disease, were found to be upregulated in hyperglycemic HepG2 cells as compared with normoglycemic cells. Suppression of CEACAM1, GLUT2, and PON1, and elevation of CD36, PCK1, and G6PK were also found to be characteristic in hyperglycemic HepG2 cells compared with normoglycemic cells, suggesting insulin resistance and NAFLD. These in vitro findings mirror the characteristic genetic and phenotypic profile seen in Leprdb/J mice, a well-established in vivo model of NAFLD. In conclusion, we characterize an in vitro model displaying several key genetic and phenotypic characteristics in common with NAFLD that may assist future studies in addressing the molecular mechanisms and therapeutic targets to combat this disease.