The incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in postmenopausal women has increased significantly. Estrogen plays a very important role in NAFLD, but whether NAFLD in premenopausal women was caused by estrogen deficiency was unknown. Thus, it is of great clinical significance to explore the mechanism of NAFLD in premenopausal women. Gut microbiota and its metabolites short chain fatty acids (SCFA) have been shown to play important roles in the development of NAFLD. In this study, we investigated the impact of gut microbiota and SCFA in NAFLD patients and mice caused by estrogen deficiency. We showed that premenopause NAFLD patients had much lower estrogen levels. Estrogen deficient mice, due to ovariectomy (OVX), suffered more severe liver steatosis with an elevated body weight, abdominal fat weight, serum triglycerides and deterioration in hepatic steatosis. Altered gut microbiota composition and decreased butyrate content were found in NAFLD patients and in OVX mice. Furthermore, fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) or supplementing with butyrate alleviated NAFLD in OVX mice. The production of antimicrobial peptides (AMP) Reg3γ, β-defensins and the expression of intestinal epithelial tight junction, including ZO-1 and Occluding-5, were decreased in the OVX mice compared to control mice. Upregulation of PPAR-γ and VLDLR, downregulation of PPAR-α indicated that OVX mice suffered from abnormal lipid metabolism. These data indicate that changes in the gut microbiota and SCFA caused by estrogen reduction, together with a disorder in AMP production and lipid metabolism, promote NAFLD, thus provide SCFAs derived from microbiota as new therapeutic targets for the clinical prevention and treatment of NAFLD.
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