The increased expression of leads to hepatosteatosis in mice. This study aims to investigate the genetic control of hepatic transcription and to explore its impact on NAFLD risk in humans. Through a locus-wide expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) mapping in two human liver sample sets, a PNPLA3 intronic SNP, rs139051 A>G was identified as a significant eQTL ( = 6.6×10) influencing transcription, with the A allele significantly associated with increased PNPLA3 mRNA. An electrophoresis mobility shift assay further demonstrated that the A allele has enhanced affinity to nuclear proteins than the G allele. The impact of this eQTL on NAFLD risk was further tested in three independent populations. We found that rs139051 did not independently affect the NAFLD risk, whilst rs738409 did not significantly modulate transcription but was associated with NAFLD risk. The A-G haplotype associated with higher transcription of the disease-risk rs738409 G allele conferred similar risk for NAFLD compared to the G-G haplotype that possesses a lower transcription level. Our study suggests that the pathogenic role of in NAFLD is independent of the gene transcription in humans, which may be attributed to the high endogenous transcription level of gene in human livers.