Lipid-regulating properties of butyric acid and 4-phenylbutyric acid: Molecular mechanisms and therapeutic applications

Bo He, Régis Moreau

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


In the past two decades, significant advances have been made in the etiology of lipid disorders. Concomitantly, the discovery of liporegulatory functions of certain short-chain fatty acids has generated interest in their clinical applications. In particular, butyric acid (BA) and its derivative, 4-phenylbutyric acid (PBA), which afford health benefits against lipid disorders while being generally well tolerated by animals and humans have been assessed clinically. This review examines the evidence from cell, animal and human studies pertaining to the lipid-regulating effects of BA and PBA, their molecular mechanisms and therapeutic potential. Collectively, the evidence supports the view that intakes of BA and PBA benefit lipid homeostasis across biological systems. We reviewed the evidence that BA and PBA downregulate de novo lipogenesis, ameliorate lipotoxicity, slow down atherosclerosis progression, and stimulate fatty acid β-oxidation. Central to their mode of action, BA appears to function as a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor while PBA acts as a chemical chaperone and/or a HDAC inhibitor. Areas of further inquiry include the effects of BA and PBA on adipogenesis, lipolysis and apolipoprotein metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-131
Number of pages16
JournalPharmacological Research
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Chemical chaperone
  • HDAC
  • Lipogenesis
  • Lipolysis
  • Lipoprotein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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