Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common comorbidity among people living with HIV with a more aggressive course than in the general population. In a recent randomized placebo-controlled trial, we demonstrated that the growth hormone-releasing hormone analogue tesamorelin reduced liver fat and prevented fibrosis progression in HIV-associated NAFLD over one year. As such, tesamorelin is the first strategy that has shown to be effective against NAFLD among the HIV population. The current study leveraged paired liver biopsy specimens from this trial to identify hepatic gene pathways that are differentially modulated by tesamorelin versus placebo. Using Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA), we found that tesamorelin increased hepatic expression of hallmark gene sets involved in oxidative phosphorylation and decreased hepatic expression of gene sets contributing to inflammation, tissue repair, and cell division. Tesamorelin also reciprocally up- and downregulated curated gene sets associated with favorable and poor hepatocellular carcinoma prognosis, respectively. Notably, among tesamorelin-treated participants, these changes in hepatic expression correlated with improved fibrosis-related gene score. Our findings inform our knowledge of the biology of growth hormone action on the liver and provide a mechanistic basis for the observed clinical effects of tesamorelin on the liver.
Lindsay T. Fourman, James M. Billingsley, George Agyapong, Shannan J. Ho Sui, Meghan N. Feldpausch, Julia Purdy, Isabel Zheng, Chelsea S. Pan, Kathleen E. Corey, Martin Torriani, David E. Kleiner, Colleen M. Hadigan, Takara L. Stanley, Raymond T. Chung, Steven K. Grinspoon