Microglia dictate the impact of saturated fat consumption on hypothalamic inflammation and neuronal function

Cell Rep. 2014 Dec 24;9(6):2124-38. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.11.018. Epub 2014 Dec 11.


Diets rich in saturated fat produce inflammation, gliosis, and neuronal stress in the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH). Here, we show that microglia mediate this process and its functional impact. Although microglia and astrocytes accumulate in the MBH of mice fed a diet rich in saturated fatty acids (SFAs), only the microglia undergo inflammatory activation, along with a buildup of hypothalamic SFAs. Enteric gavage specifically with SFAs reproduces microglial activation and neuronal stress in the MBH, and SFA treatment activates murine microglia, but not astrocytes, in culture. Moreover, depleting microglia abrogates SFA-induced inflammation in hypothalamic slices. Remarkably, depleting microglia from the MBH of mice abolishes inflammation and neuronal stress induced by excess SFA consumption, and in this context, microglial depletion enhances leptin signaling and reduces food intake. We thus show that microglia sense SFAs and orchestrate an inflammatory process in the MBH that alters neuronal function when SFA consumption is high.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / metabolism*
  • Astrocytes / pathology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dietary Fats / adverse effects
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Eating
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / adverse effects
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Gliosis / etiology
  • Gliosis / metabolism
  • Hypothalamus / cytology
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / etiology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Signal Transduction


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Leptin