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Inhibition of receptor-interacting protein kinase 1 improves experimental non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Published:November 21, 2019DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2019.11.008

      Highlights

      • RIPA-56 reduces hepatic inflammation and fibrosis in dietary obese mice.
      • RIPA-56 reverses steatosis and dampens body weight gain in obese mice.
      • RIPK1 regulates triglyceride content in hepatocytes by activating MLKL, which controls mitochondrial biomass and activity.
      • RIPK1 and MLKL are significantly increased in the serum of patients with NASH.
      • Targeting RIPK1/MLKL represents a promising strategy for NASH treatment.

      Background & Aims

      In non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), hepatocytes can undergo necroptosis: a regulated form of necrotic cell death mediated by the receptor-interacting protein kinase (RIPK) 1. Herein, we assessed the potential for RIPK1 and its downstream effector mixed lineage kinase domain-like protein (MLKL) to act as therapeutic targets and markers of activity in NAFLD.

      Methods

      C57/BL6J-mice were fed a normal chow diet or a high-fat diet (HFD). The effect of RIPA-56, a highly specific inhibitor of RIPK1, was evaluated in HFD-fed mice and in primary human steatotic hepatocytes. RIPK1 and MLKL concentrations were measured in the serum of patients with NAFLD.

      Results

      When used as either a prophylactic or curative treatment for HFD-fed mice, RIPA-56 caused a downregulation of MLKL and a reduction of liver injury, inflammation and fibrosis, characteristic of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), as well as of steatosis. This latter effect was reproduced by treating primary human steatotic hepatocytes with RIPA-56 or necrosulfonamide, a specific inhibitor of human MLKL, and by knockout (KO) of Mlkl in fat-loaded AML-12 mouse hepatocytes. Mlkl-KO led to activation of mitochondrial respiration and an increase in β-oxidation in steatotic hepatocytes. Along with decreased MLKL activation, Ripk3-KO mice exhibited increased activities of the liver mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes in experimental NASH. In patients with NAFLD, serum concentrations of RIPK1 and MLKL increased in correlation with activity.

      Conclusion

      The inhibition of RIPK1 improves NASH features in HFD-fed mice and reverses steatosis via an MLKL-dependent mechanism that, at least partly, involves an increase in mitochondrial respiration. RIPK1 and MLKL are potential serum markers of activity and promising therapeutic targets in NAFLD.

      Lay summary

      There are currently no pharmacological treatment options for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is now the most frequent liver disease. Necroptosis is a regulated process of cell death that can occur in hepatocytes during NAFLD. Herein, we show that RIPK1, a gatekeeper of the necroptosis pathway that is activated in NAFLD, can be inhibited by RIPA-56 to reduce not only liver injury, inflammation and fibrosis, but also steatosis in experimental models. These results highlight the potential of RIPK1 as a therapeutic target in NAFLD.

      Graphical abstract

      Keywords

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