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BioMed Research International
Volume 2015, Article ID 597134, 10 pages
Review Article

The Dual Role of Nrf2 in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Regulation of Antioxidant Defenses and Hepatic Lipid Metabolism

1Basic and Clinical Research on Iron Biology Group, Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular (IBMC), Universidade do Porto, Rua do Campo Alegre 823, 4150180 Porto, Portugal
2Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, Universidade do Porto, Portugal

Received 10 October 2014; Revised 16 January 2015; Accepted 19 January 2015

Academic Editor: Maria Carmen Collado

Copyright © 2015 Sílvia S. Chambel et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a progressive liver disease with ever-growing incidence in the industrialized world. It starts with the simple accumulation of lipids in the hepatocyte and can progress to the more severe nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is associated with inflammation, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. There is increasing awareness that reactive oxygen species and electrophiles are implicated in the pathogenesis of NASH. Transcription factor nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) is a positive regulator of the expression of a battery of genes involved in the protection against oxidative/electrophilic stress. In rodents, Nrf2 is also known to participate in hepatic fatty acid metabolism, as a negative regulator of genes that promote hepatosteatosis. We review relevant evidence in the literature that these two mechanisms may contribute to the protective role of Nrf2 in the development of hepatic steatosis and in the progression to steatohepatitis, particularly in young animals. We propose that age may be a key to explain contradictory findings in the literature. In summary, Nrf2 mediates the crosstalk between lipid metabolism and antioxidant defense mechanisms in experimental models of NAFLD, and the nutritional or pharmacological induction of Nrf2 represents a promising potential new strategy for its prevention and treatment.