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To investigate associations between hepatic fat accumulation, fibrosis, and plasma values of primary metabolites, biochemical measurands, insulin, and lipoproteins in bearded dragons.


48 adult central bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps).


Dragons were sedated with alfaxalone, and a blood sample was collected. Plasma was submitted for untargeted primary metabolomics using gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry, a biochemistry panel, and a lipoprotein panel determined by PAGE. Hepatic lipid content was quantified by liver attenuation measurements from CT images and digital image analysis of standardized histologic sections of the liver. Fibrosis was quantified by digital image analysis on Masson’s trichrome–stained histologic sections. Severity was determined from pathologic review of liver sections according to a standardized grading system. Statistical associations were investigated using serial linear models adjusted for false discovery rate and multivariate statistics.


Both hepatic fat and fibrosis had a significant effect on CT liver attenuation values. Several oligosaccharides (maltotriose, maltose, ribose, trehalose) and alkaline phosphatase were significantly and linearly increased with hepatic lipid content (all q < .05). On partial least square–discriminant analysis, β-hydroxybutyric acid was the most important discriminatory variable between fatty liver severity grades on histology. No significant associations were found with insulin, lipoproteins, and succinic acid.


Bearded dragons with hepatic lipid accumulation experienced multiple metabolic pathway disruptions, some being compatible with mitochondrial dysfunction. No evidence of insulin resistance or dyslipidemia was found. Hepatic biopsy and histopathology remain recommended for reliably diagnosing and staging fatty liver disease in bearded dragons.

Open access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research