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Inhibition of mTOR improves malnutrition induced hepatic metabolic dysfunction

By February 17, 2023No Comments


Severe malnutrition accounts for half-a-million deaths annually in children under the age of five. Despite improved WHO guidelines, inpatient mortality remains high and is associated with metabolic dysfunction. Previous studies suggest a correlation between hepatic metabolic dysfunction and impaired autophagy. We aimed to determine the role of mTORC1 inhibition in a murine model of malnutrition-induced hepatic dysfunction. Wild type weanling C57/B6 mice were fed a 18 or 1% protein diet for two weeks. A third low-protein group received daily rapamycin injections, an mTORC1 inhibitor. Hepatic metabolic function was assessed by histology, immunofluorescence, gene expression, metabolomics and protein levels. Low protein-fed mice manifested characteristics of severe malnutrition, including weight loss, hypoalbuminemia, hypoglycemia, hepatic steatosis and cholestasis. Low protein-fed mice had fewer mitochondria and showed signs of impaired mitochondrial function. Rapamycin prevented hepatic steatosis, restored ATP levels and fasted plasma glucose levels compared to untreated mice. This correlated with increased content of LC3-II, and decreased content mitochondrial damage marker, PINK1. We demonstrate that hepatic steatosis and disturbed mitochondrial function in a murine model of severe malnutrition can be partially prevented through inhibition of mTORC1. These findings suggest that stimulation of autophagy could be a novel approach to improve metabolic function in severely malnourished children.

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