Morphological and functional characterization of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease induced by a methionine-choline-deficient diet in C57BL/6 mice

Hiroko Itagaki, Kazuhiko Shimizu, Shunichi Morikawa, Kenji Ogawa, Taichi Ezaki
International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Pathology 2013, 6 (12): 2683-96

BACKGROUND: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), including non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), appears to be increasingly common worldwide. Its histopathology and the effects of nutrition on liver function have not been fully determined.

AIM: To elucidate the cellular mechanisms of NAFLD induced by a methionine-choline-deficient (MCD) diet in mice. Particular focus was placed on the role of phagocytic cells.

METHODS: Male C57BL/6 mice were fed an MCD diet for 30 weeks. A recovery model was also established wherein a normal control diet was provided for 2 weeks after a period of 8, 16, or 30 weeks.

RESULTS: Mice fed the MCD diet for ≥ 2 weeks exhibited severe steatohepatitis with elevated serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels. Steatohepatitis was accompanied by the infiltration of CD68-positive macrophages (Kupffer cells). The severity of steatohepatitis increased in the first 16 weeks but was seen to lessen by week 30. Fibrosis began to develop at 10 weeks and continued thereafter. Steatohepatitis and elevated serum hepatic enzyme concentrations returned to normal levels after switching the diet back to the control within the first 16 weeks, but fibrosis and CD68-positive macrophages remained.

CONCLUSIONS: The histopathological changes and irreversible fibrosis seen in this model were caused by prolonged feeding of an MCD diet. These results were accompanied by changes in the activity of CD68-positive cells with temporary elevation of CCL-2, MMP-13, and MMP-9 levels, all of which may trigger early steatohepatitis and late fibrosis through phagocytosis-associated MMP induction.

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