Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a hepatic phenotype of the metabolic syndrome, and increases the risk of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Although increasing evidence points to the therapeutic implications of certain types of anti-diabetic agents in NASH, it remains to be elucidated whether their effects on NASH are independent of their effects on diabetes. Genetically obese melanocortin 4 receptor–deficient (MC4R-KO) mice fed Western diet are a murine model that sequentially develops hepatic steatosis, NASH, and HCC in the presence of obesity and insulin resistance. In this study, we investigated the effect of the dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor anagliptin on NASH and HCC development in MC4R-KO mice. Anagliptin treatment effectively prevented inflammation, fibrosis, and carcinogenesis in the liver of MC4R-KO mice. Interestingly, anagliptin only marginally affected body weight, systemic glucose and lipid metabolism, and hepatic steatosis. Histological data and gene expression analysis suggest that anagliptin treatment targets macrophage activation in the liver during the progression from simple steatosis to NASH. As a molecular mechanism underlying anagliptin action, we showed that glucagon-like peptide-1 suppressed proinflammatory and profibrotic phenotypes of macrophages in vitro. This study highlights the glucose metabolism–independent effects of anagliptin on NASH and HCC development.
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