BACKGROUND: FADS1 gene encodes delta 5 desaturase, a rate-limiting enzyme in the metabolism of n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Minor alleles of FADS1 locus polymorphisms are associated with reduced FADS1 expression and intra-hepatic fat accumulation. However, the relationship between FADS1 expression and pediatric nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) risk remains to be explored.
METHODS: We analyzed FADS1 transcription levels and their association with intra-hepatic fat and histology in children, and we performed pathway enrichment analysis on transcriptomic profiles associated with FADS1 polymorphisms. We also evaluated the weight of FADS1 alleles on the response to combined docosahexaenoic acid, choline, and vitamin E (DHA-CHO-VE) treatment.
RESULTS: FADS1 mRNA level was significantly and inversely associated with intra-hepatic fat (p = 0.004), degree of steatosis (p = 0.03), fibrosis (p = 0.05), and NASH (p = 0.008) among pediatric livers. Transcriptomics demonstrated a significant enrichment of a number of pathways strongly related to NAFLD (e.g., liver damage, fibrosis, and hepatic stellate cell activation). Compared to children who are common allele homozygotes, children with FADS1 minor alleles had a greater reduction in steatosis, fibrosis, and NAFLD activity score after DHA-CHO-VE.
CONCLUSION: This study suggests that decreased FADS1 expression may be associated with NAFLD in children but an increased response to DHA-CHO-VE.