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Serum retinol binding protein 4 is negatively related to beta cell function in Chinese women with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a cross-sectional study

Hongmei Yan1, Xinxia Chang1, Mingfeng Xia1, Hua Bian1, Linshan Zhang1, Huandong Lin1, Gang Chen2, Mengsu Zeng2 and Xin Gao1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, 180 Fenglin Road, Shanghai 200032, China

2 Department of Radiology, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, China

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2013, 12:157  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-12-157

Published: 27 October 2013



To observe the relationship between serum retinol binding protein 4(RBP4) and β cell function in Chinese subjects with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and without known diabetes.


106 patients diagnosed as fatty liver by ultrasonography (M/F: 61/45; aged 47.44 ± 14.16 years) were enrolled in our current cross-sectional study. Subjects with known diabetes, chronic virus hepatitis and excessive alcohol consumption were excluded. Serum RBP4 was detected by ELISA and validated by quantitative Western blotting. β cell function were assessed by HOMA in all subjects and by hyperglycemic clamp in 17 normal glucose tolerance subjects (M = 6, F = 11).


The levels of serum RBP4 in men were higher than that in women (55.96 ± 11.14 vs 45.87 ± 10.31 μg/ml, p < 0.001). Pearson’s correlation analysis demonstrated that in women, serum RBP4 levels were significantly associated with fasting blood glucose (FBG), HOMA-β, and increment of first phase insulin secretion (1PH), but not associated with age, BMI, waist circumference, WHR, systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP), TC, TG, HDL-c, LDL-c, 2 h blood glucose, HOMA-IR, ALT, AST, γ-GT, hepatic fat content (HFC), and insulin sensitivity index (ISI). However, in men, serum RBP4 levels were significantly associated with HDL-c, ALT, AST, but not associated with any other parameters as mentioned above. A stepwise multiple linear regression analysis demonstrated that in women, HOMA-IR and RBP4 were significantly associated with HOMA-β, while in men, HOMA-IR and BMI were significantly variables associated with HOMA-β.


Serum RBP4, secreted mainly by liver and adipose tissue, may involve in the pathogenesis of β cell dysfunction in Chinese women patients with NAFLD.

Serum retinol binding protein 4 (RBP4); Beta cell function; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)