This study aimed to investigate the causal relationship between chronic ingestion of a high-fat diet (HFD)-induced secretion of glucocorticoids (GCs) and the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We have produced a strain of transgenic mice (termed L/L mice) that have normal levels of circulating corticosterone (CORT), the major type of GCs in rodents, but unlike wild-type (WT) mice, their circulating CORT was not affected by HFD. Compared to WT mice, 12-week HFD-induced fatty liver was less pronounced with higher plasma levels of triglycerides in L/L mice. These changes were reversed by CORT supplement to L/L mice. By analyzing a sort of lipid metabolism-related proteins, we found that expressions of the hepatic cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36) were upregulated by HFD-induced CORT and involved in CORT-mediated fatty liver. Dexamethasone, an agonist of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), upregulated expressions of CD36 in HepG2 hepatocytes and facilitated lipid accumulation in the cells. In conclusion, the fat ingestion-induced release of CORT contributes to NAFLD. This study highlights the pathogenic role of CORT-mediated upregulation of hepatic CD 36 in diet-induced NAFLD.
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