Nuclear Receptor Modulation for the Treatment of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

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Abstract

Nuclear receptors (NRs) are ligand-activated transcriptional regulators of several key metabolic processes including hepatic lipid and glucose metabolism, bile acid homeostasis, and energy expenditure as well as inflammation, fibrosis, and cellular proliferation in the liver. Dysregulation of these processes contributes to the pathogenesis and progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This places NRs at the forefront of novel therapeutic approaches for NAFLD. Some NRs are already pharmacologically targeted in metabolic disorders such as hyperlipidemia (peroxisomal proliferator-activated receptor α [PPARα], fibrates) and diabetes (PPARγ, glitazones) with potential applications for NAFLD. Other NRs with potential therapeutic implications are the vitamin D receptor (VDR) and xenobiotic sensors such as constitutive androstane receptor (CAR) and pregnane X receptor (PXR). Further new perspectives include combined ligands for NR isoforms such as PPARα/δ ligands. Other novel key players represent the nuclear bile acid receptor farnesoid X receptor (FXR; targeted by synthetic FXR ligands such as obeticholic acid) and RAR-related orphan receptor gamma two (RORγt). In this review the authors provide an overview of the preclinical and clinical evidence of current and future treatment strategies targeting NRs in metabolism, inflammation, and fibrogenesis of NAFLD.

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