Physical Activity Induces Nucleus Accumbens Genes Expression Changes Preventing Chronic Pain Susceptibility Promoted by High-Fat Diet and Sedentary Behavior in Mice

Front Neurosci. 2020 Jan 22;13:1453. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.01453. eCollection 2019.


Recent findings from rodent studies suggest that high-fat diet (HFD) increases hyperalgesia independent of obesity status. Furthermore, weight loss interventions such as voluntary physical activity (PA) for adults with obesity or overweight was reported to promote pain reduction in humans with chronic pain. However, regardless of obesity status, it is not known whether HFD intake and sedentary (SED) behavior is underlies chronic pain susceptibility. Moreover, differential gene expression in the nucleus accumbens (NAc) plays a crucial role in chronic pain susceptibility. Thus, the present study used an adapted model of the inflammatory prostaglandin E2 (PGE2)-induced persistent hyperalgesia short-term (PH-ST) protocol for mice, an HFD, and a voluntary PA paradigm to test these hypotheses. Therefore, we performed an analysis of differential gene expression using a transcriptome approach of the NAc. We also applied a gene ontology enrichment tools to identify biological processes associated with chronic pain susceptibility and to investigate the interaction between the factors studied: diet (standard diet vs. HFD), physical activity behavior (SED vs. PA) and PH-ST (PGE vs. saline). Our results demonstrated that HFD intake and sedentary behavior promoted chronic pain susceptibility, which in turn was prevented by voluntary physical activity, even when the animals were fed an HFD. The transcriptome of the NAc found 2,204 differential expression genes and gene ontology enrichment analysis revealed 41 biologic processes implicated in chronic pain susceptibility. Taking these biological processes together, our results suggest that genes related to metabolic and mitochondria stress were up-regulated in the chronic pain susceptibility group (SED-HFD-PGE), whereas genes related to neuroplasticity were up-regulated in the non-chronic pain susceptibility group (PA-HFD-PGE). These findings provide pieces of evidence that HFD intake and sedentary behavior provoked gene expression changes in the NAc related to promotion of chronic pain susceptibility, whereas voluntary physical activity provoked gene expression changes in the NAc related to prevention of chronic pain susceptibility. Finally, our findings confirmed previous literature supporting the crucial role of voluntary physical activity to prevent chronic pain and suggest that low levels of voluntary physical activity would be helpful and highly recommended as a complementary treatment for those with chronic pain.

Keywords: chronic pain; high-fat diet; neuroplasticity; nucleus accumbens; physical activity; transcriptome.