In addition to metabolic and cardiovascular disorders, obesity pandemic is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation as well as adverse cognitive outcomes. However, the existence of critical periods of development that differ in terms of sensitivity to the effects of diet-induced obesity remains unexplored. Using short exposure to a high-fat diet (HFD) exerting no effects when given to adult mice, we recently found impairment of hippocampal-dependent memory and plasticity after similar HFD exposure encompassing adolescence (from weaning to adulthood) showing the vulnerability of the juvenile period (Boitard et al., 2012). Given that inflammatory processes modulate hippocampal functions, we evaluated in rats whether the detrimental effect of juvenile HFD (jHFD) on hippocampal-dependent memory is associated with over-expression of hippocampal pro-inflammatory cytokines. jHFD exposure impaired long-term spatial reference memory in the Morris water maze without affecting acquisition or short-term memory. This suggests an effect on consolidation processes. Moreover, jHFD consumption delayed spatial reversal learning. jHFD intake did neither affect basal expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines at the periphery nor in the brain, but potentiated the enhancement of Interleukin-1-beta and Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha expression specifically in the hippocampus after a peripheral immune challenge with lipopolysaccharide. Interestingly, whereas the same duration of HFD intake at adulthood induced similar weight gain and metabolic alterations as jHFD intake, it did neither affect spatial performance (long-term memory or reversal learning) nor lipopolysaccharide-induced cytokine expression in the hippocampus. Finally, spatial reversal learning enhanced Interleukin-1-beta in the hippocampus, but not in the frontal cortex and the hypothalamus, of jHFD-fed rats. These results indicate that juvenile HFD intake promotes exaggerated pro-inflammatory cytokines expression in the hippocampus which is likely to contribute to spatial memory impairment.
Keywords: Adolescence; Cytokines; Hippocampus; Memory; Obesity; Overweight; Spatial learning.
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