Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is prevalent in the majority of individuals with obesity, but in a subset of these individuals, it progresses to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (0NASH) and fibrosis. The mechanisms that prevent NASH and fibrosis in the majority of patients with NAFLD remain unclear. Here, we report that NAD(P)H oxidase 4 (NOX4) and nuclear factor erythroid 2–related factor 2 (NFE2L2) were elevated in hepatocytes early in disease progression to prevent NASH and fibrosis. Mitochondria-derived ROS activated NFE2L2 to induce the expression of NOX4, which in turn generated H2O2 to exacerbate the NFE2L2 antioxidant defense response. The deletion or inhibition of NOX4 in hepatocytes decreased ROS and attenuated antioxidant defense to promote mitochondrial oxidative stress, damage proteins and lipids, diminish insulin signaling, and promote cell death upon oxidant challenge. Hepatocyte NOX4 deletion in high-fat diet–fed obese mice, which otherwise develop steatosis, but not NASH, resulted in hepatic oxidative damage, inflammation, and T cell recruitment to drive NASH and fibrosis, whereas NOX4 overexpression tempered the development of NASH and fibrosis in mice fed a NASH-promoting diet. Thus, mitochondria- and NOX4-derived ROS function in concert to drive a NFE2L2 antioxidant defense response to attenuate oxidative liver damage and progression to NASH and fibrosis in obesity.
Spencer Greatorex, Supreet Kaur, Chrysovalantou E. Xirouchaki, Pei K. Goh, Florian Wiede, Amanda J. Genders, Melanie Tran, YaoYao Jia, Arthe Raajendiran, Wendy A. Brown, Catriona A. McLean, Junichi Sadoshima, Matthew J. Watt, Tony Tiganis