Novel proteomic signatures may indicate MRI-assessed intrahepatic fat state and changes: The DIRECT PLUS clinical trial

Dana T Goldberg, Anat Yaskolka Meir, Gal Tsaban, Ehud Rinott, Alon Kaplan, Hila Zelicha, Nora Klöting, Uta Ceglarek, Berend Iserman, Ilan Shelef, Philip Rosen, Matthias Blüher, Michael Stumvoll, Ohad Etzion, Meir J Stampfer, Frank B Hu, Iris Shai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND AND AIMS: We demonstrated in the randomized 18-month DIRECT PLUS trial (n = 294) that a Mediterranean (MED) diet, supplemented with polyphenol-rich Mankai duckweed, green tea, and walnuts and restricted in red/processed meat, caused substantial intrahepatic fat (IHF%) loss compared with 2 other healthy diets, reducing NAFLD by half, regardless of similar weight loss. Here, we investigated the baseline proteomic profile associated with IHF% and the changes in proteomics associated with IHF% changes induced by lifestyle intervention.

APPROACH AND RESULTS: We calculated IHF% by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (normal IHF% <5% and abnormal IHF% ≥5%). We assayed baseline and 18-month samples for 95 proteomic biomarkers.Participants (age = 51.3 ± 10.8 y; 89% men; and body mass index = 31.3 ± 3.9 kg/m 2 ) had an 89.8% 18-month retention rate; 83% had eligible follow-up proteomics measurements, and 78% had follow-up proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy. At baseline, 39 candidate proteins were significantly associated with IHF% (false discovery rate <0.05), mostly related to immune function pathways (eg, hydroxyacid oxidase 1). An IHF% prediction based on the DIRECT PLUS by combined model ( R2 = 0.47, root mean square error = 1.05) successfully predicted IHF% ( R2 = 0.53) during testing and was stronger than separately inputting proteins/traditional markers ( R2 = 0.43/0.44). The 18-month lifestyle intervention induced changes in 18 of the 39 candidate proteins, which were significantly associated with IHF% change, with proteins related to metabolism, extracellular matrix remodeling, and immune function pathways. Thrombospondin-2 protein change was higher in the green-MED compared to the MED group, beyond weight and IHF% loss ( p = 0.01). Protein principal component analysis revealed differences in the third principal component time distinct interactions across abnormal/normal IHF% trajectory combinations; p < 0.05 for all).

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest novel proteomic signatures that may indicate MRI-assessed IHF state and changes during lifestyle intervention. Specifically, carbonic anhydrase 5A, hydroxyacid oxidase 1, and thrombospondin-2 protein changes are independently associated with IHF% change, and thrombospondin-2 protein change is greater in the green-MED/high polyphenols diet.

Original languageEnglish
StateE-pub ahead of print - 27 Mar 2024


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