Background Caveolin-1, the main structural protein of caveolae, is involved in cholesterol homoeostasis, transcytosis, endocytosis and signal transduction and thought to play an important role in lipidogenesis. Little is known about the pathophysiological role of caveolin-1 in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition frequently associated with the metabolic syndrome and characterized by abnormal accumulation of intrahepatic triglycerides with a potentially harmful risk of evolution to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Materials and methods Liver steatosis (micro/macrovesicular) was induced in adult rats fed a choline-deficient diet for 14 days and compared with a control normal diet. The expression and subcellular distribution of caveolin-1 was assessed using light and electron microscopy by immunohistochemical and immunocytochemical techniques and by Western blotting. Results Caveolin-1 was mainly associated with the hepatocyte basolateral plasma membrane. Fatty hepatocytes were characterized by a significant increase in the expression of caveolin-1 around and within the lipid droplets as well as in the inner membrane of mitochondria. Conclusions Our data suggest the involvement of caveolin-1 in the case of abnormal lipogenesis and mitochondrial function typical of steatotic hepatocytes in NAFLD. Addressing the role played by caveolin-1 in liver membranes in NAFLD may help future therapeutic choices in a frequent metabolic liver disease.
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