• Alcoholic Fatty Liver;
  • Corn Oil;
  • HNF4α;
  • Lipid Metabolism;
  • Medium Chain Triglyceride


Alcohol consumption is a major cause of fatty liver, and dietary saturated fats have been shown to protect against alcoholic fatty liver. This study investigated the mechanisms of how dietary saturated fat may modulate alcohol-induced hepatic lipid dyshomeostasis.


Male Sprague Dawley rats were pair-fed with 3 isocaloric liquid diets, control, alcohol, and medium chain triglyceride (MCT)/alcohol, respectively, for 8 weeks. The control and alcohol diets were based on the Lieber–DeCarli liquid diet formula with 30% total calories derived from corn oil (rich in unsaturated long chain fatty acids). The corn oil was replaced by MCT, which consists of exclusive saturated fatty acids, in the MCT/alcohol diet. HepG2 cell culture was conducted to test the effects of unsaturated fatty acids on hepatocyte nuclear factor-4α (HNF4α) and the role of HNF4α in regulating hepatocyte lipid homeostasis.


Alcohol feeding caused significant lipid accumulation, which was attenuated by dietary MCT. The major effect of alcohol on hepatic gene expression is the up-regulation of CYP4A1, CD36, and GPAT3, and down-regulation of apolipoprotein B (ApoB). Dietary MCT further up-regulated CYP4A1 gene, normalized ApoB gene, and up-regulated MTTP and SCD1 genes. The protein level of HNF4α, a master transcription factor of the liver, was reduced by alcohol feeding, which was normalized by dietary MCT. Fatty acid profiling demonstrated that alcohol feeding dramatically increased hepatic unsaturated long chain fatty acyl species, particularly linoleic acid and oleic acid, which was attenuated by dietary MCT. Dietary MCT attenuated alcohol-reduced serum triglyceride level and modulated the fatty acid composition of the serum triglycerides. Cell culture study demonstrated polyunsaturated linoleic acid rather than monounsaturated oleic acid inactivated HNF4α in HepG2 cells. Knockdown of HNF4α caused lipid accumulation in HepG2 cells due to dysregulation of very low density lipoprotein secretion.


Results suggest that dietary MCT prevents alcohol-induced hepatic lipid accumulation, at least partially, through reducing hepatic polyunsaturated long chain fatty acids and preserving HNF4α.