Comparative Analysis of Global Hepatic Gene Expression in Adolescents and Adults with Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Author(s): Samer Gawrieh, Rebekah Karns, David E Kleiner, Michael Olivier, Todd Jenkins, Thomas H Inge, Naga P Chalasani, Stavra Xanthakos

Introduction: To gain insights into the mechanisms underlying distinct nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) histological phenotypes between children and adults, we compared hepatic gene expression profiles associated with NAFLD phenotypes between the two age groups.

Methods: Histological characteristics of intra-operative liver biopsies from adolescents and adults undergoing bariatric surgery were assessed by the same pathologist using the non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) Clinical Research Network scoring system. Hepatic gene expression was measured by microarray analysis. Transcriptomic signatures of histological phenotypes between the two groups were compared, with significance defined as p-value <0.05 and a fold change >1.5.

Results: In 67 adolescents and 76 adults, distribution of histological phenotypes was: not-NAFLD (controls) 51% vs 39%, NAFL 39% vs 37%, and NASH 10% vs 24%, respectively. There were 279 differentially expressed genes in adolescents and 213 in adults with NAFLD vs controls. In adolescents, transcriptomes for NAFL vs controls, and borderline vs definite NASH were undifferentiable, whereas in adults, NAFL and borderline NASH demonstrated a transcriptomic gradient between controls and definite NASH. When applied to adolescents, significant adult genes discriminated borderline and definite NASH from control and NAFL, but the majority of significant pediatric genes were not portable to adults. Genes associated with NASH in adolescents and adults showed some ontological consistency but notable differences.

Conclusions: There is some similarity but major differences in the transcriptomic profiles associated with NAFLD between adolescents and adults with severe obesity. These data suggest different mechanisms contribute to the path

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