Maternal high-fat diet leads to hippocampal and amygdala dendritic remodeling in adult male offspring

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017 Sep:83:49-57. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.05.003. Epub 2017 May 31.


Early-life exposure to calorie-dense food, rich in fat and sugar, contributes to the increasing prevalence of obesity and its associated adverse cognitive and emotional outcomes at adulthood. It is thus critical to determine the impact of such nutritional environment on neurobehavioral development. In animals, maternal high-fat diet (HFD) consumption impairs hippocampal function in adult offspring, but its impact on hippocampal neuronal morphology is unknown. Moreover, the consequences of perinatal HFD exposure on the amygdala, another important structure for emotional and cognitive processes, remain to be established. In rats, we show that adult offspring from dams fed with HFD (45% from fat, throughout gestation and lactation) exhibit atrophy of pyramidal neuron dendrites in both the CA1 of the hippocampus and the basolateral amygdala (BLA). Perinatal HFD exposure also impairs conditioned odor aversion, a task highly dependent on BLA function, without affecting olfactory or malaise processing. Neuronal morphology and behavioral alterations elicited by perinatal HFD are not associated with body weight changes but with higher plasma leptin levels at postnatal day 15 and at adulthood. Taken together, our results suggest that perinatal HFD exposure alters hippocampal and amygdala neuronal morphology which could participate to memory alterations at adulthood.

Keywords: Dendritic length; Golgi-Cox; Maternal diet; Memory; Rat; Spine density.

MeSH terms

  • Adult Children
  • Amygdala / physiology
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / growth & development
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Leptin / blood
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Temporal Lobe


  • Leptin