Eicosapentaenoic acid improves hepatic metabolism and reduces inflammation independent of obesity in high-fat-fed mice and in HepG2 cells

Kembra Albracht-Schulte, Samantha Gonzalez, Abigail Jackson, Savanna Wilson, Latha Ramalingam, Nishan S. Kalupahana, Naima Moustaid-Moussa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is increasing worldwide, concurrent with increased obesity. Thus, there is urgent need for research that can lead to effective NAFLD prevention/treatment strategies. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), improve inflammation-and dyslipidemia-related metabolic disorders; however, mechanisms mediating the benefits of n-3 PUFAs in NAFLD treatment are less understood. We previously reported that EPA reversed obesity-induced hepatic steatosis in high-fat (HF)-fed B6 mice. Utilizing a combination of biochemical analyses of liver tissues from HF and HF-EPA-fed mice and a series of in vitro studies in tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α)-stimulated HepG2 cells, we dissect the mechanistic effects of EPA in reducing hepatic steatosis, including the role of EPA-targeted microRNAs (miRNA). With EPA, hepatic lipid metabolism was improved in HF-EPA mice, as indicated by decreased protein and messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of fatty acid synthase (FASN) and acetyl-CoA carboxylase (Acaca) gene, and increased mRNA levels for the peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-α (Pparα), and carnitine palmitoyltransferase (Cpt) 1a and 2 genes in the HF-EPA mice. Additionally, inflammation was reduced, as shown by decreased tumor necrosis factor-alpha (Tnfα) gene expression. Accordingly, EPA also significantly reduced FASN and ACACA mRNAs in human HepG2 cells. Glycolysis, estimated by extracellular acidification rate, was significantly reduced in HepG2 cells treated with EPA vs. vehicle. Furthermore, we identified several miRNAs that are regulated by EPA in mouse liver, including miR-19b-3p, miR-21a-5p, and others, which target lipid metabolism and inflammatory pathways. In conclusion, our findings provide novel mechanistic evidence for beneficial effects of EPA in NAFLD, through the identification of specific genes and miRNAs, which may be further exploited as future NAFLD therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number599
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Eicosapentaenoic acid
  • Inflammation
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Obesity
  • Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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