Thiazolidinediones (TZDs) markedly reduce hepatic steatosis in both rodents and humans. However, the effects and mechanisms of action of TZDs
on hepatic fibrosis remain unclear. The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of TZDs on histological changes in the liver and on the modulation by adiponectin via the AMP‐activated protein kinase (AMPK) signalling pathway in rats with non‐alcoholic steatohepatitis
(NASH). Forty rats were divided into normal control, high‐fat diet (HFD), pioglitazone control and pioglitazone intervention groups. After 24 weeks treatment with pioglitazone (10 mg/kg per day by gavage), changes in liver histology, serum
aminotransaminase, triglyceride (TG), free fatty acid (FFA), glucose, insulin, adiponectin and transforming growth factor (TGF)‐β1 concentrations and hepatic adiponectin, AMPK, α‐smooth muscle actin (α‐SMA) and collagen I expression were evaluated.
The degree of hepatic steatosis and fibrosis was significantly higher in HFD‐induced NASH rats compared with normal controls, as were serum concentrations of aminotransaminase, TG, FFA, glucose, insulin and TGF‐β1 and hepatic expression of α‐SMA
and collagen I protein. Serum adiponectin concentrations and hepatic expression of adiponectin mRNA and AMPK protein were significantly lower in the HFD‐induced NASH rats compared with the normal control. Pioglitazone significantly reduced the degree
of hepatic steatosis and fibrosis, as well as serum concentrations of aminotransaminase, TG, FFA, glucose, insulin and TGF‐β1 and hepatic expression of α‐SMA and collagen I protein. In addition, pioglitazone significantly increased serum adiponectin concentrations
and hepatic expression of adiponectin mRNA and AMPK protein. In conclusion, the TZD pioglitazone improved hepatic fibrosis in rats with NASH by upregulating adiponectin expression and activating AMPK, thus subsequently inhibiting the activation of hepatic stellate
cells and the overproduction of extracellular matrix.
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