Effects of choline deficiency and supplementation on lipid droplet accumulation in bovine primary liver cells in vitro

Wenyan Lu, Jingna Yang, Mingyue Hu, Kai Zhong, Yueying Wang, Yanbin Yang, Juan J. Loor, Guoyu Yang, Liqiang Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rumen-protected choline (RPC) supplementation in the periparturient period has in some instances prevented and alleviated fatty liver disease in dairy cows. Mechanistically, however, it is unclear how choline prevents the accumulation of lipid droplets (LD) in liver cells. In this study, primary liver cells isolated from liver tissue obtained via puncture biopsy from 3 nonpregnant mid-lactation multiparous Holstein cows (∼160 d postpartum) were used. Analyses of LD via oil red O staining, protein abundance via Western blotting, and phospholipid content and composition measured by thin-layer chromatography and HPLC/mass spectrometry were performed in liver cells cultured in choline-deficient medium containing 150 μmol/L linoleic acid for 24 h. In a subsequent experiment, lipophagy was assessed in liver cells cultured with 30, 60, or 90 µmol/L choline-chloride. All data were analyzed statistically using SPSS 20.0 via t-tests or one-way ANOVA. Compared with liver cells cultured in Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium alone, choline deficiency increased the average diameter of LD (1.59 vs. 2.10 µm), decreased the proportion of small LD (<2 µm) from 75.3% to 56.6%, and increased the proportion of large LD (>4 µm) from 5.6% to 15.0%. In addition, the speed of LD fusion was enhanced by the absence of choline. Among phospholipid species, the phosphatidylcholine (PC) content of liver cells decreased by 34.5%. Seventeen species of PC (PC [18:2_22:6], PC [15:0_16:1], PC [14:0_20:4], and so on) and 6 species of lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC; LPC [15:0/0:0]), PC (22:2/0:0), LPC (20:2/0:0), and so on] were decreased, while PC (14:1_16:1) and LPC (0:0/20:1) were increased. Choline deficiency increased the triglyceride (TAG) content (0.57 vs. 0.39 μmol/mg) in liver cells and increased the protein abundance of sterol regulatory element binding protein 1, sterol regulatory element binding protein cleavage activation protein, and fatty acid synthase by 23.5%, 17%, and 36.1%, respectively. Upon re-supplementation with choline, the phenotype of LD (TAG content, size, proportion, and phospholipid profile) was reversed, and the ratio of autophagy marker LC3II/LC3I protein was significantly upregulated in a dose-dependent manner. Overall, at least in vitro in mid-lactation cows, these data demonstrated that PC synthesis is necessary for normal LD formation, and both rely on choline availability. According to the limitation of the source of liver cells used, further work should be conducted to ascertain that these effects are applicable to liver cells from postpartum cows, the physiological stage where the use of RPC has been implemented for the prevention and treatment of fatty liver.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9868-9878
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • choline
  • fatty liver
  • lipid droplet
  • lipophagy
  • liver cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Genetics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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