PNPLA3—A Potential Therapeutic Target for Personalized Treatment of Chronic Liver Disease

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Patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing protein 3 (PNPLA3) is a lipid droplet-associated protein that has been shown to have hydrolase activity toward triglycerides and retinyl esters. The first evidence of PNPLA3 being associated with fatty liver disease was revealed by a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of Hispanic, African American, and European American individuals in the Dallas Heart Study back in 2008. Since then, numerous GWAS reports have shown that PNPLA3 rs738409[G] (148M) variant is associated with hepatic triglyceride accumulation (steatosis), inflammation, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and even hepatocellular carcinoma regardless of etiologies including alcohol- or obesity-related and others. The frequency of PNPLA3(148M) variant ranges from 17% in African Americans, 23% in European Americans, to 49% in Hispanics in the Dallas Heart Study. Due to high prevalence of obesity and alcohol consumption in modern societies, the PNPLA3(148M) gene variant and environment interaction poses a serious concern for public health, especially chronic liver diseases including alcohol-related liver disease (ALD) and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Therefore, PNPLA3(148M) variant is a potential therapeutic target for chronic liver disease in the rs738409 allele carriers. Currently, there is no approved drug specifically targeting the PNPLA3(148M) variant yet. With additional mechanistic studies, novel therapeutic strategies are expected to be developed for the treatment of the PNPLA3(148M) variant-associated chronic liver diseases in the near future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number304
JournalFrontiers in Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 17 2019


  • PNPLA3
  • alcoholic liver disease
  • cirrhosis
  • fibrosis
  • hepatocellular carcinoma
  • nonalcoholic steatohepatitis
  • rs738409

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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