BACKGROUND & AIMS: In patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), liver biopsy is the gold standard to detect non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and stage liver fibrosis. We aimed to identify differentially expressed mRNAs and non-coding RNAs in serum samples of biopsy-diagnosed mild and severe NAFLD patients with respect to controls and to each other. METHODS: We first performed a whole transcriptome analysis through microarray (n = 12: four Control: CTRL; four mild NAFLD: NAS ≤ 4 F0; four severe NAFLD NAS ≥ 5 F3), followed by validation of selected transcripts through real-time PCRs in an independent internal cohort of 88 subjects (63 NAFLD, 25 CTRL) and in an external cohort of 50 NAFLD patients. A similar analysis was also performed on liver biopsies and HepG2 cells exposed to oleate:palmitate or only palmitate (cellular model of NAFL/NASH) at intracellular/extracellular levels. Transcript correlation with histological/clinical data was also analysed. RESULTS: We identified several differentially expressed coding/non-coding RNAs in each group of the study cohort. We validated the up-regulation of UBE2V1, BNIP3L mRNAs, RP11-128N14.5 lncRNA, TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 coding/lncRNA in patients with NAS ≥ 5 (vs NAS ≤ 4) and the up-regulation of HBA2 mRNA, TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 coding/lncRNA in patients with Fibrosis stages = 3-4 (vs F = 0-2). In in vitro models: UBE2V1, RP11-128N14.5 and TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 had an increasing expression trend ranging from CTRL to oleate:palmitate or only palmitate-treated cells both at intracellular and extracellular level, while BNIP3L was up-regulated only at extracellular level. UBE2V1, RP11-128N14.5, TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 and HBA2 up-regulation was also observed at histological level. UBE2V1, RP11-128N14.5, BNIP3L and TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 correlated with histological/biochemical data. Combinations of TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 + Fibrosis Index based on the four factors (FIB-4) showed an Area Under the Curve (AUC) of 0.891 (P = 3.00E-06) or TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 + Fibroscan (AUC = 0.892, P = 2.00E-06) improved the detection of F = 3-4 with respect to F = 0-2 fibrosis stages. CONCLUSIONS: We identified specific serum coding/non-coding RNA profiles in severe and mild NAFLD patients that possibly mirror the molecular mechanisms underlying NAFLD progression towards NASH/fibrosis. TGFB2/TGFB2-OT1 detection improves FIB-4/Fibroscan diagnostic performance for advanced fibrosis discrimination.
|Number of pages||13|
|Journal||Liver international : official journal of the International Association for the Study of the Liver|
|Publication status||Published - Sep 1 2019|
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