Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology 7 (3) 597-618 [2018-12-19; online 2018-12-19]
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) are emerging as leading causes of liver disease worldwide. Currently, no specific pharmacologic therapy is available for NAFLD/NASH, which has been recognized as one of the major unmet medical needs of the 21st century. Our recent studies in genetic mouse models, human cell lines, and well-characterized patient cohorts have identified serine/threonine protein kinase (STK)25 as a critical regulator of hepatic lipid partitioning and NAFLD/NASH. Here, we studied the metabolic benefit of liver-specific STK25 inhibitors on NAFLD development and progression in a mouse model of diet-induced obesity. We developed a hepatocyte-specific triantennary N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc)-conjugated antisense oligonucleotide (ASO) targeting Stk25 and evaluated its effect on NAFLD features in mice after chronic exposure to dietary lipids. We found that systemic administration of hepatocyte-targeting GalNAc-Stk25 ASO in obese mice effectively ameliorated steatosis, inflammatory infiltration, hepatic stellate cell activation, nutritional fibrosis, and hepatocellular damage in the liver compared with mice treated with GalNAc-conjugated nontargeting ASO, without any systemic toxicity or local tolerability concerns. We also observed protection against high-fat-diet-induced hepatic oxidative stress and improved mitochondrial function with Stk25 ASO treatment in mice. Moreover, GalNAc-Stk25 ASO suppressed lipogenic gene expression and acetyl-CoA carboxylase protein abundance in the liver, providing insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying repression of hepatic steatosis. This study provides in vivo nonclinical proof-of-principle for the metabolic benefit of liver-specific inhibition of STK25 in the context of obesity and warrants future investigations to address the therapeutic potential of GalNAc-Stk25 ASO in the prevention and treatment of NAFLD.
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