Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Human primary hepatocytes are the gold standard for investigating lipid metabolism in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); however, due to limitations including availability and donor variability, the hepatoma cell lines Huh7 and HepG2 are commonly used. Culturing these cell lines in human serum (HS) has been reported to improve functionality; however, direct comparison of fatty acid (FA) metabolism in response to culturing in HS is lacking. The aim of this study was to compare FA metabolism between HepG2 and Huh7 cells in response to culturing in different sera. Both HepG2 and Huh7 cells were grown in media containing 11 mmol/L glucose and either 2% HS or 10% fetal bovine serum. After 3 days, insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 signaling were measured. At 7 days, intracellular triacylglycerol (TAG) and media 3-hydroxybutyrate, TAG and apolipoprotein B were measured, as was the FA composition of intracellular TAG and phospholipids. Both cell lines demonstrated higher levels of polyunsaturated fatty acid content, increased insulin sensitivity, higher media TAG levels and increased FA oxidation when cultured in HS Notably, independent of serum type, Huh7 cells had higher intracellular TAG compared to HepG2 cells, which was in part attributable to a higher de novo lipogenesis. Our data demonstrate that intrahepatocellular FA metabolism is different between cell lines and influenced by culturing sera. As a result, when developing a physiologically-relevant model of FA metabolism that could be developed for the study of NAFLD, consideration of both parameters is required.

Original publication




Journal article


Physiol Rep

Publication Date





Cell lines, human serum, liver, triacylglycerol, Animals, Cattle, Cell Culture Techniques, Culture Media, Fatty Liver, Hep G2 Cells, Humans, Organ Specificity, Serum