Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is becoming a major health issue as obesity increases around the world. We studied the effect of a circadian locomotor output cycles kaput (CLOCK) mutant (ClkΔ19/Δ19) protein on hepatic lipid metabolism in C57Bl6 Clkwt/wt and apolipoprotein E–deficient (Apoe−/−) mice. Both ClkΔ19/Δ19 and ClkΔ19/Δ19Apoe−/− mice developed a full spectrum of liver diseases (steatosis, steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma) recognized in human NAFLD when challenged with a Western diet, lipopolysaccharide, or CoCl2. We identified induction of cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36) and hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α) proteins as contributing factors for NAFLD. Mechanistic studies showed that wild-type CLOCK protein interacted with the E-box enhancer elements in the promoters of the proline hydroxylase domain (PHD) proteins to increase expression. In ClkΔ19/Δ19 mice, PHD levels were low, and HIF1α protein levels were increased. When its levels were high, HIF1α interacted with the Cd36 promoter to augment expression and enhance fatty acid uptake. Thus, these studies establish a novel regulatory link among circadian rhythms, hypoxia response, fatty acid uptake, and NAFLD. The mouse models described here may be useful for further mechanistic studies in the progression of liver diseases and in the discovery of drugs for the treatment of these disorders.
Xiaoyue Pan, Joyce Queiroz, M. Mahmood Hussain