Elevated plasma copeptin levels identify the presence and severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in obesity

Ilaria Barchetta, Sofia Enhörning, Flavia Agata Cimini, Danila Capoccia, Caterina Chiappetta, Claudio Di Cristofano, Gianfranco Silecchia, Frida Leonetti, Olle Melander, Maria Gisella Cavallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Copeptin is the stable surrogate marker of vasopressin (VP), which is released in response to elevated plasma osmolality or low blood pressure. Elevated plasma copeptin levels are associated with higher risk of insulin resistance-related disorders, such as type 2 diabetes (T2DM), metabolic syndrome (MS), and cardiovascular disease, and experimental reduction of circulating VP levels is shown to significantly decrease hepatic fat content in obese rats, independently from body adiposity. However, the association between copeptin and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and steatohepatitis (NAFLD/NASH) in humans has not been explored yet. The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between plasma copeptin and the presence/severity of NAFLD/NASH. Methods: For this study, we recruited 60 obese patients candidate to bariatric surgery for clinical purposes in which intraoperative liver biopsies were performed for diagnosing NAFLD/NASH. Circulating copeptin levels were also assessed in 60 age- and sex-comparable non-obese individuals without NAFLD at liver ultrasonography. Plasma copeptin was measured by sandwich immunoluminometric assay (Thermo Fisher Scientific). Results: Obese patients with biopsy-proven NAFLD (53%) had significantly higher copeptin levels than both obese individuals without NAFLD and non-obese subjects (ob/NAFLD+ 9.5 ± 4.9; ob/NAFLD- 6.4 ± 2.6; and non-ob/NAFLD- 7.4 ± 5.1 pmol/L; p = 0.004 and p = 0.01 respectively). Plasma copeptin concentration positively correlated with hepatic macro- and micro-vesicular steatosis (r = 0.36, p = 0.026; r = 0.31, p = 0.05), lobular inflammation (r = 0.37, p = 0.024) and significantly increased throughout degrees of NASH severity, as expressed as absence, borderline, and overt NASH at the liver biopsy (r = 0.35, p = 0.01). Greater circulating copeptin predicted the presence of NASH with OR = 1.73 (95% CI = 1.02-2.93) after multivariate adjustment for age, sex, renal function and presence of T2DM and MS components. Conclusions: Increased plasma copeptin is independently associated with the presence and severity of NAFLD and NASH, pointing to a novel mechanism behind human fatty liver disease potentially modifiable by pharmacological treatment and lifestyle intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number85
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Apr 30

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Gastroenterology and Hepatology

Free keywords

  • Antidiuretic hormone
  • Copeptin
  • Fatty liver
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • NASH
  • Obesity
  • Vasopressin


Dive into the research topics of 'Elevated plasma copeptin levels identify the presence and severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in obesity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this