Innate immunity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Authors John Kountouras, Evangelos Kazakos, Foteini Kyrailidi, Stergios A. Polyzos, Christos Zavos, Stergios Arapoglou, Marina Boziki, Maria C. Mouratidou, Maria Tzitiridou-Chatzopoulou, Dimitrios Chatzopoulos, Michael Doulberis, Apostolis Papaefthymiou, Elisabeth Vardaka.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), recently renamed as metabolic (dysfunction)-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD), is a complex, multifactorial disease that progresses via nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) towards severe liver complications. MAFLD/NAFLD affects up to a third of the global population. It is connected with metabolic syndrome parameters and has been increasing in parallel with the rates of metabolic syndrome parameters worldwide. This disease entity exhibits a strong immune-inflammatory dimension. In MAFLD/NAFLD/NASH, a vast network of innate immune cells is mobilized that can provoke liver damage, leading to advanced fibrosis, cirrhosis and its complications, including hepatocellular carcinoma. However, our understanding of the inflammatory signals that drive the onset and progression of MAFLD/NAFLD/NASH is fragmented. Thus, further investigation is required to better understand the role of specific innate immune cell subsets in the disease, and to aid the design of innovative therapeutic agents to target MAFLD/NAFLD/NASH. In this review, we discuss current concepts regarding the role of innate immune system involvement in MAFLD/NAFLD/NASH onset and progression, along with presenting potential stress signals affecting immune tolerance that may trigger aberrant immune responses. A comprehensive understanding of the innate immune mechanisms involved in MAFLD/NAFLD/NASH pathophysiology will help the discovery of early interventions to prevent the disease, and lead to potential innovative therapeutic strategies that may limit its worldwide burden.

Keywords Innate immune response, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, metabolic-associated fatty liver disease, liver fibrosis, metabolic syndrome

Ann Gastroenterol 2023; 36 (3): 244-256

Invited Reviews