Aerobic capacity and hepatic mitochondrial lipid oxidation alters susceptibility for chronic high-fat diet-induced hepatic steatosis

E. Matthew Morris, Grace M E Meers, Lauren G. Koch, Steven L. Britton, Justin A. Fletcher, Xiaorong Fu, Kartik Shankar, Shawn C. Burgess, Jamal A. Ibdah, R. Scott Rector, John P. Thyfault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Rats selectively bred for high capacity running (HCR) or low capacity running (LCR) display divergence for intrinsic aerobic capacity and hepatic mitochondrial oxidative capacity, both factors associated with susceptibility for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Here, we tested if HCR and LCR rats display differences in susceptibility for hepatic steatosis after 16 wk of high-fat diets (HFD) with either 45% or 60% of kcals from fat. HCR rats were protected against HFD-induced hepatic steatosis, whereas only the 60% HFD induced steatosis in LCR rats, as marked by a doubling of liver triglycerides. Hepatic complete fatty acid oxidation (FAO) and mitochondrial respiratory capacity were all lower in LCR compared with HCR rats. LCR rats also displayed lower hepatic complete and incomplete FAO in the presence of etomoxir, suggesting a reduced role for noncarnitine palmitoyltransferase-1- mediated lipid catabolism in LCR versus HCR rats. Hepatic complete FAO and mitochondrial respiration were largely unaffected by either chronic HFD; however, 60% HFD feeding markedly reduced 2-pyruvate oxidation, a marker of tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle flux, and mitochondrial complete FAO only in LCR rats. LCR rats displayed lower levels of hepatic long-chain acylcarnitines than HCR rats but maintained similar levels of hepatic acetyl-carnitine levels, further supporting lower rates of β-oxidation, and TCA cycle flux in LCR than HCR rats. Finally, only LCR rats displayed early reductions in TCA cycle genes after the acute initiation of a HFD. In conclusion, intrinsically high aerobic capacity confers protection against HFDinduced hepatic steatosis through elevated hepatic mitochondrial oxidative capacity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E749-E760
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2016


  • Acylcarnitines
  • Exercise
  • Fat oxidation
  • Fatty liver
  • Fitness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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