BACKGROUND We hypothesized that obesity-associated hepatosteatosis is a pathophysiological chemical depot for fat-soluble vitamins and altered normal physiology. Using α-tocopherol (vitamin E) as a model vitamin, pharmacokinetics and kinetics principles were used to determine whether excess liver fat sequestered α-tocopherol in women with obesity-associated hepatosteatosis versus healthy controls.METHODS Custom-synthesized deuterated α-tocopherols (d3- and d6-α-tocopherols) were administered to hospitalized healthy women and women with hepatosteatosis under investigational new drug guidelines. Fluorescently labeled α-tocopherol was custom-synthesized for cell studies.RESULTS In healthy subjects, 85% of intravenous d6-α-tocopherol disappeared from the circulation within 20 minutes but reappeared within minutes and peaked at 3–4 hours; d3- and d6-α-tocopherols localized to lipoproteins. Lipoprotein redistribution occurred only in vivo within 1 hour, indicating a key role of the liver in uptake and re-release. Compared with healthy subjects who received 2 mg, subjects with hepatosteatosis had similar d6-α-tocopherol entry rates into liver but reduced initial release rates (P < 0.001). Similarly, pharmacokinetics parameters were reduced in hepatosteatosis subjects, indicating reduced hepatic d6-α-tocopherol output. Reductions in kinetics and pharmacokinetics parameters in hepatosteatosis subjects who received 2 mg were echoed by similar reductions in healthy subjects when comparing 5- and 2-mg doses. In vitro, fluorescent-labeled α-tocopherol localized to lipid in fat-loaded hepatocytes, indicating sequestration.CONCLUSIONS The unique role of the liver in vitamin E physiology is dysregulated by excess liver fat. Obesity-associated hepatosteatosis may produce unrecognized hepatic vitamin E sequestration, which might subsequently drive liver disease. Our findings raise the possibility that hepatosteatosis may similarly alter hepatic physiology of other fat-soluble vitamins.TRIAL REGISTRATION ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT00862433.FUNDING National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and NIH grants DK053213-13, DK067494, and DK081761.


Pierre-Christian Violet, Ifechukwude C. Ebenuwa, Yu Wang, Mahtab Niyyati, Sebastian J. Padayatty, Brian Head, Kenneth Wilkins, Stacey Chung, Varsha Thakur, Lynn Ulatowski, Jeffrey Atkinson, Mikel Ghelfi, Sheila Smith, Hongbin Tu, Gerd Bobe, Chia-Ying Liu, David W. Herion, Robert D. Shamburek, Danny Manor, Maret G. Traber, Mark Levine


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