Morphological changes in glial fibrillary acidic protein immunopositive astrocytes in the hippocampus of dietary-induced obese mice

Neuroreport. 2014 Aug 6;25(11):819-822. doi: 10.1097/WNR.0000000000000180.


Long-term consumption of a high-fat diet (HFD) has been shown to trigger both metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. In contrast, the effect of this type of dietary regime on the central nervous system, particularly outside the hypothalamus, has been investigated poorly. Astrocytes, the most abundant population of glial cells in the brain, are pivotal in regulating glutamatergic transmission as they are responsible for most of the glutamate uptake and metabolism. Mice on an HFD show deficits in learning and memory, together with neurochemical and electrophysiological changes compatible with the impairment in hippocampal glutamatergic activity. Because astrocyte function and morphology have been shown to be interdependent, we speculated whether HFD would trigger changes in astrocyte morphology. For this purpose, we have used a model of diet-induced obesity in mice. We have analyzed astrocyte morphology and density by glial fibrillary acidic protein immunohistochemistry, as well as the expression of the glutamate transporters, GLT-1 (glutamate transporter type-1), and GLAST (astrocyte glutamate transporter), in the CA3 area of the hippocampus. We found that astrocytes from HFD mice showed longer and less abundant projections. These changes were accompanied by the upregulation of both GLT-1 and GLAST. Our data show that the functional impairment detected previously in HFD mice is concomitant with morphological changes within the hippocampus.