Background and aims: Sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) leads to improvement in hepatic steatosis, associated with weight loss. The aims of this study were to investigate whether VSG leads to weight-loss independent improvements in liver steatosis in mice with diet-induced obesity (DIO); and to metabolically and transcriptomically profile hepatic changes in mice undergoing VSG.

Methods: Mice with DIO were treated with VSG, sham surgery with subsequent food restriction to weight-match to the VSG group (Sham-WM), or sham surgery with return to unrestricted diet (Sham-Ad lib). Hepatic steatosis, glucose tolerance, insulin and glucagon resistance, and hepatic transcriptomics were investigated at the end of the study period and treatment groups were compared with mice undergoing sham surgery only (Sham-Ad lib).

Results: VSG led to much greater improvement in liver steatosis than Sham-WM (liver triglyceride mg/mg 2.5 ± 0.1, 2.1 ± 0.2, 1.6 ± 0.1 for Sham-AL, Sham-WM and VSG respectively; p = 0.003). Homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance was improved following VSG only (51.2 ± 8.8, 36.3 ± 5.3, 22.3 ± 6.1 for Sham-AL, Sham-WM and VSG respectively; p = 0.03). The glucagon-alanine index, a measure of glucagon resistance, fell with VSG but was significantly increased in Sham-WM (9.8 ± 1.7, 25.8 ± 4.6 and 5.2 ± 1.2 in Sham Ad-lib, Sham-WM and VSG respectively; p = 0.0003). Genes downstream of glucagon receptor signalling which govern fatty acid synthesis (Acaca, Acacb, Me1, Acly, Fasn and Elovl6) were downregulated following VSG but upregulated in Sham-WM.

Conclusions: Changes in glucagon sensitivity may contribute to weight-loss independent improvements in hepatic steatosis following VSG.