Short-chain fatty acids suppress food intake by activating vagal afferent neurons

J Nutr Biochem. 2018 Jul:57:130-135. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2018.03.009. Epub 2018 Mar 17.


Fermentable carbohydrates including dietary fibers and resistant starch produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including acetate, propionate and butyrate, through microbial fermentation in the intestine of rodents and humans. Consumption of fermentable carbohydrate and SCFAs suppress food intake, an effect involving the brain. However, their signaling pathway to the brain remains unclear. Vagal afferents serve to link intestinal information to the brain. In the present study, we explored possible role of vagal afferents in the anorexigenic effect of SCFAs. Intraperitoneal (ip) injection of three SCFA molecules (6 mmol/kg) suppressed food intake in fasted mice with the rank order of butyrate > propionate > acetate. The suppressions of feeding by butyrate, propionate and acetate were attenuated by vagotomy of hepatic branch and blunted by systemic treatment with capsaicin that denervates capsaicin-sensitive sensory nerves including vagal afferents. Ip injection of butyrate induced significant phosphorylation of extracellular-signal-regulated kinase 1/2, cellular activation markers, in nodose ganglia and their projection site, medial nucleus tractus solitaries. Moreover, butyrate directly interacted with single neurons isolated from nodose ganglia and induced intracellular Ca2+ signaling. The present results identify the vagal afferent as the novel pathway through which exogenous SCFAs execute the remote control of feeding behavior and possibly other brain functions. Vagal afferents might participate in suppression of feeding by intestine-born SCFAs.

Keywords: Butyrate; Food intake; Nodose ganglion; Short-chain fatty acid; Vagal afferents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetite Depressants / administration & dosage
  • Appetite Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Capsaicin / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Eating / drug effects*
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism
  • Neurons, Afferent / drug effects*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Nodose Ganglion / cytology
  • Nodose Ganglion / drug effects
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Vagotomy / methods
  • Vagus Nerve / cytology
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology


  • Appetite Depressants
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Mapk1 protein, mouse
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Capsaicin
  • Calcium