Nuclear receptors and transcriptional regulation in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Yang Xiao, Mindy Kim, Mitchell A. Lazar


As a result of a sedentary lifestyle and excess food consumption in modern society, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) characterized by fat accumulation in the liver is becoming a major disease burden. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is an advanced form of NAFLD characterized by inflammation and fibrosis that can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma and liver failure. Nuclear receptors (NRs) are a family of ligand-regulated transcription factors that closely control multiple aspects of metabolism. Their transcriptional activity is modulated by various ligands, including hormones and lipids. NRs serve as potential pharmacological targets for NAFLD/NASH and other metabolic diseases.

Scope of review

In this review, we provide a comprehensive overview of NRs that have been studied in the context of NAFLD/NASH with a focus on their transcriptional regulation, function in preclinical models, and studies of their clinical utility.

Major conclusions

The transcriptional regulation of NRs is context-dependent. During the dynamic progression of NAFLD/NASH, NRs play diverse roles in multiple organs and different cell types in the liver, which highlights the necessity of targeting NRs in a stage-specific and cell-type-specific manner to enhance the efficacy and safety of treatment methods.