Digestive System > Liver

Metabolic Functions of the Liver

Hepatocytes are metabolic overachievers in the body. They play critical roles in synthesizing molecules that are utilized elsewhere to support homeostasis, in converting molecules of one type to another, and in regulating energy balances. If you have taken a course in biochemistry, you probably spent most of that class studying metabolic pathways of the liver. At the risk of damning by faint praise, the major metabolic functions of the liver can be summarized into several major categories:

Carbohydrate Metabolism

It is critical for all animals to maintain concentrations of glucose in blood within a narrow, normal range. Maintainance of normal blood glucose levels over both short (hours) and long (days to weeks) periods of time is one particularly important function of the liver.

Hepatocytes house many different metabolic pathways and employ dozens of enzymes that are alternatively turned on or off depending on whether blood levels of glucose are rising or falling out of the normal range. Two important examples of these abilities are:

Fat Metabolism

Few aspects of lipid metabolism are unique to the liver, but many are carried out predominantly by the liver. Major examples of the role of the liver in fat metabolism include:

Protein Metabolism

The most critical aspects of protein metabolism that occur in the liver are:

Liver: Introduction and Index

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