Hepatic de novo lipogenesis is influenced by the branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase (BCKDH) kinase (BCKDK). Here, we aimed to determine whether circulating levels of the immediate substrates of BCKDH, the branched-chain α-keto acids (BCKAs), and hepatic BCKDK expression are associated with the presence and severity of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Eighty metabolites (3 BCKAs, 14 amino acids, 43 acylcarnitines, 20 ceramides) were quantified in plasma from 288 patients with bariatric surgery with severe obesity and scored liver biopsy samples. Metabolite principal component analysis factors, BCKAs, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), and the BCKA/BCAA ratio were tested for associations with steatosis grade and presence of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Of all analytes tested, only the Val-derived BCKA, α-keto-isovalerate, and the BCKA/BCAA ratio were associated with both steatosis grade and NASH. Gene expression analysis in liver samples from 2 independent bariatric surgery cohorts showed that hepatic BCKDK mRNA expression correlates with steatosis, ballooning, and levels of the lipogenic transcription factor SREBP1. Experiments in AML12 hepatocytes showed that SREBP1 inhibition lowered BCKDK mRNA expression. These findings demonstrate that higher plasma levels of BCKA and hepatic expression of BCKDK are features of human NAFLD/NASH and identify SREBP1 as a transcriptional regulator of BCKDK.
Thomas Grenier-Larouche, Lydia Coulter Kwee, Yann Deleye, Paola Leon-Mimila, Jacquelyn M. Walejko, Robert W. McGarrah, Simon Marceau, Sylvain Trahan, Christine Racine, André C. Carpentier, Aldons J. Lusis, Olga Ilkayeva, Marie-Claude Vohl, Adriana Huertas-Vazquez, André Tchernof, Svati H. Shah, Christopher B. Newgard, Phillip J. White