Inhibition of PU.1 ameliorates metabolic dysfunction and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis

Liu, QM; Yu, JJ; Wang, LH; Tang, YL; Zhou, Q; Ji, SH; Wang, Y; Santos, L; Haeusler, RA; Que, JW; Rajbhandari, P; Lei, XG; Valenti, L; Pajvani, UB; Qin, J; Qiang, L

Qiang, L (corresponding author), Columbia Univ, Med Ctr, Russ Berrie Bldg Room 607A,1150 St Nicholas Ave, New York, NY 10032 USA.; Pajvani, UB (corresponding author), Columbia Univ, Med Ctr, Russ Berrie Bldg Room 121F,1150 St Nicholas Ave, New York, NY 10032 USA.; Qin, J (corresponding author), Verna & Marrs McLean Dept Biochem & Mol Biol, One Baylor Plaza,Room 145E, Houston, TX 77030 USA.

JOURNAL OF HEPATOLOGY, 2020; 73 (2): 361

Abstract

Background & Aims: Obesity is a well-established risk factor for type 2 diabetes (T2D) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), but the underlying mechanisms remain incompletely understood. Herein, we aimed to identify novel pathogenic factors (and possible therapeutic targets) underlying metabolic dysfunction in the liver. Methods: We applied a tandem quantitative proteomics strategy to enrich and identify transcription factors (TFs) induced in the obese liver. We used flow cytometry of liver cells to analyze the source of the induced TFs. We employed conditional knockout mice, shRNA, and small-molecule inhibitors to test the metabolic consequences of the induction of identified TFs. Finally, we validated mouse data in patient liver biopsies. Results: We identified PU.1/SPI1, the master hematopoietic regulator, as one of the most upregulated TFs in livers from diet-induced obese (DIO) and genetically obese (db/db) mice. Targeting PU.1 in the whole liver, but not hepatocytes alone, significantly improved glucose homeostasis and suppressed liver inflammation. Consistently, treatment with the PU.1 inhibitor DB1976 markedly reduced inflammation and improved glucose homeostasis and dyslipidemia in DIO mice, and strongly suppressed glucose intolerance, liver steatosis, inflammation, and fibrosis in a dietary NASH mouse model. Furthermore, hepatic PU.1 expression was positively correlated with insulin resistance and inflammation in liver biopsies from patients. Conclusions: These data suggest that the elevated hematopoietic factor PU.1 promotes liver metabolic dysfunction, and may be a useful therapeutic target for obesity, insulin resistance/T2D, and NASH. Lay summary: Expression of the immune regulator PU.1 is increased in livers of obese mice and people. Blocking PU.1 improved glucose homeostasis, and reduced liver steatosis, inflammation and fibrosis in mouse models of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Inhibition of PU.1 is thus a potential therapeutic strategy for treating obesity-associated liver dysfunction and metabolic diseases. (c) 2020 European Association for the Study of the Liver. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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