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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterized by excessive accumulation of hepatic triglycerides (TG) and hyperglycemia arising due to persistent insulin resistance, and is profoundly linked to obesity. However, there is currently no established treatment for NAFLD in obese human subjects. We previously isolated Helz2, the expression of which was upregulated in human and mouse NAFLD, and its deletion activated the hepatic expression of functional leptin receptor long form (Leprb) and suppressed NAFLD development and body weight (BW) gain in obese mice. A high-throughput assay of small-molecule drugs revealed that guanabenz acetate (Ga), originally used to treat hypertension, possesses a high affinity constant against HELZ2, and its administration activates LEPRB expression in HepG2 cells in vitro. The chronic oral administration of Ga shows the selective leptin sensitization in the liver via upregulation of hepatic Leprb expression, which affects expression of genes involved in lipogenesis and fatty acid β-oxidation and diminishes hepatocyte hypertrophy with droplets enriched in TG in high-fat diet-induced obese mice. This activity significantly improves insulin resistance to decrease hyperglycemia and hepatocyte and adipocyte weights, resulting in BW reduction without reducing food intake. Regarding drug repositioning, Ga has the potential to effectively treat NAFLD and hyperglycemia in obese patients.


Satoshi Yoshino, Yusaku Iwasaki, Shunichi Matsumoto, Tetsurou Satoh, Atsushi Ozawa, Eijiro Yamada, Satoru Kakizaki, Juan Alejandro Oliva Trejo, Yasuo Uchiyama, Masanobu Yamada, Masatomo Mori. Administration of small-molecule guanabenz acetate attenuates fatty liver and hyperglycemia associated with obesity. Scientific reports. 2020 Aug 13;10(1):13671

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PMID: 32792584

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