Previous studies suggested that high consumption of saturated fatty acid (SFA) is a risk factor for liver cancer. However, it remains unclear how dietary SFA affects liver tumorigenesis. This study aimed to investigate the impact of a SFA-rich diet on hepatic tumorigenesis using hepatitis C virus core gene transgenic (HCVcpTg) mice that spontaneously developed hepatic steatosis and tumors with aging. Male HCVcpTg mice were treated for 15 months with a purified control diet or SFA-rich diet prepared by replacing soybean oil in the control diet with hydrogenated coconut oil, and phenotypic changes were assessed. In this special diet, almost all dietary fatty acids were SFA. Long-term feeding of SFA-rich diet to HCVcpTg mice increased hepatic steatosis, liver dysfunction, and the prevalence of liver tumors, likely due to stimulation of de novo lipogenesis, activation of the pro-inflammatory and pro-oncogenic transcription factor nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB), enhanced c-Jun N-terminal kinase/activator protein 1 (JNK/AP-1) signaling and induction of the oncogenes cyclin D1 and p62/sequestosome 1. The SFA-rich diet did not affect liver fibrosis or autophagy. Collectively, long-term SFA-rich diet consumption promoted hepatic tumorigenesis mainly through activation of lipogenesis, NF-κB, and JNK/AP-1 signaling. We therefore propose that HCV-infected patients should avoid excessive intake of SFA-rich foods to prevent liver cancer.
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