Fatty acids and the endoplasmic reticulum in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease



Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) represents a burgeoning public health concern in westernized nations. The obesity-related disorder is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver failure. Although the underlying pathogenesis of NAFLD is unclear, increasing evidence suggests that excess saturated fatty acids presented to or stored within the liver may play a role in both the development and progression of the disorder. A putative mechanism linking saturated fatty acids to NAFLD may be endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. Specifically, excess saturated fatty acids may induce an ER stress response that, if left unabated, can activate stress signaling pathways, cause hepatocyte cell death, and eventually lead to liver dysfunction. In the current review we discuss the involvement of saturated fatty acids in the pathogenesis of NAFLD with particular emphasis on the role of ER stress.