Is there a role for neuregulin 4 in human nonalcoholic fatty liver disease?

T.J.I. De Munck, M. Boesch, P. Verhaegh, A.A.M. Masclee, D. Jonkers, J.F. van Pelt, J. du Plessis, H. Korf, F. Nevens, G.H. Koek, S. Van der Merwe, J. Verbeek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Neuregulin 4 (Nrg4), a novel adipokine enriched in brown adipose tissue has been observed to negatively regulate de novo hepatic lipogenesis and limit nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) progression to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in rodents. However, the role of Nrg4 in human NAFLD remains unclear to date. We analysed Nrg4 plasma levels and its association with liver disease severity together with the transcriptional profile of the Nrg4 pathway in liver and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) of NAFLD patients.Methods Plasma Nrg4 levels were measured in 65 NAFLD patients and 43 healthy controls (HC). Hepatic steatosis and fibrosis were diagnosed and quantified with chemical shift MRI and transient elastography respectively. Furthermore, blood lipid levels, HOMA-IR and systemic pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-6 and IFN-gamma) were analysed. Microarray analyses to assess differences in the Nrg4 and its receptor family ErbB pathway in liver and VAT from an independent patient group with biopsy proven NAFL (simple steatosis) (n = 4), NASH (n = 5) and normal liver (n = 6) were performed.Results Plasma Nrg4 levels were not significantly different between NAFLD patients and HC (p = 0.622). Furthermore, plasma Nrg4 levels did not correlate with the hepatic fat fraction (r = -0.028, p = 0.829) and were not significantly different between NAFLD patients with or without hepatic fibrosis (p = 0.087). Finally, the expression profile of 82 genes related to the Nrg4-ErbB pathway in liver and VAT was not significantly different between NAFL, NASH or obese controls.Conclusion Our study does not support a role for Nrg4 in the pathophysiology of human NAFLD.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0251822
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2021


  • NRG4
  • MR


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