Molecular Biology

Specific diacylglycerols generated by hepatic lipogenesis stimulate the oncogenic androgen receptor activity in male hepatocytes



Obesity-induced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is more prevalent in males than in females, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. The influence of hepatic androgen receptor (AR) pathway on the gender difference of HCC has been well documented. Here we investigated the role of hepatic lipogenesis, which is elevated in the livers of obese and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) patients, in stimulating the AR pathway for the male preference of obesity induced HCC.


Male C57BL/6J mice were fed a fructose-rich high carbohydrate diet (HCD) to induce hepatic lipogenesis. The effect of hepatic lipogenesis on AR was examined by the expression of hydrodynamically injected AR reporter and the endogenous AR target gene; the mechanism was delineated in hepatoma cell lines and validated in male mice.


The hepatic lipogenesis induced by a fructose-rich HCD enhanced the transcriptional activity of hepatic AR in male mice, which did not happen when fed a high fat diet. This AR activation was blocked by sh-RNAs or inhibitors targeting key enzymes in lipogenesis, either acetyl-CoA carboxylase subunit alpha (ACCα), or fatty acid synthase (FASN), in vivo and in vitro. Further mechanistic study identified that specific unsaturated fatty acid, the oleic acid (C18:1 n-9), incorporated DAGs produced by hepatic lipogenesis are the key molecules to enhance the AR activity, through activation of Akt kinase, and this novel mechanism is targeted by metformin.


Our study elucidates a novel mechanism underlying the higher risk of HCC in obese/NAFLD males, through specific DAGs enriched by hepatic lipogenesis to increase the transcriptional activity of hepatic AR, a confirmed risk factor for male HCC.

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This study was supported by grants from the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan (NHRI-EX104-10438SI), the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan (MOST 107-2321-B-001-025, 107-3017-F-002-002), and “Center of Precision Medicine” from the Featured Areas Research Center Program within the framework of the Higher Education Sprout Project by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Taiwan (NTU-107L9014-1).

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Correspondence to Shiou-Hwei Yeh.

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Cheng, Y., Chen, K., Kuo, H. et al. Specific diacylglycerols generated by hepatic lipogenesis stimulate the oncogenic androgen receptor activity in male hepatocytes. Int J Obes 43, 2469–2479 (2019).

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