A High-Fat Diet Disrupts Nerve Lipids and Mitochondrial Function in Murine Models of Neuropathy

Front Physiol. 2022 Aug 22;13:921942. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2022.921942. eCollection 2022.


As the prevalence of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes (T2D) continues to increase worldwide, accompanying complications are also on the rise. The most prevalent complication, peripheral neuropathy (PN), is a complex process which remains incompletely understood. Dyslipidemia is an emerging risk factor for PN in both prediabetes and T2D, suggesting that excess lipids damage peripheral nerves; however, the precise lipid changes that contribute to PN are unknown. To identify specific lipid changes associated with PN, we conducted an untargeted lipidomics analysis comparing the effect of high-fat diet (HFD) feeding on lipids in the plasma, liver, and peripheral nerve from three strains of mice (BL6, BTBR, and BKS). HFD feeding triggered distinct strain- and tissue-specific lipid changes, which correlated with PN in BL6 mice versus less robust murine models of metabolic dysfunction and PN (BTBR and BKS mice). The BL6 mice showed significant changes in neutral lipids, phospholipids, lysophospholipids, and plasmalogens within the nerve. Sphingomyelin (SM) and lysophosphatidylethanolamine (LPE) were two lipid species that were unique to HFD BL6 sciatic nerve compared to other strains (BTBR and BKS). Plasma and liver lipids were significantly altered in all murine strains fed a HFD independent of PN status, suggesting that nerve-specific lipid changes contribute to PN pathogenesis. Many of the identified lipids affect mitochondrial function and mitochondrial bioenergetics, which were significantly impaired in ex vivo sural nerve and dorsal root ganglion sensory neurons. Collectively, our data show that consuming a HFD dysregulates the nerve lipidome and mitochondrial function, which may contribute to PN in prediabetes.

Keywords: dyslipidemia; high-fat diet; lipidomics; metabolic syndrome; mitochondria; neuropathy; obesity; prediabetes.