Obesity-induced neuroinflammation and cognitive impairment in young adult versus middle-aged mice

Immun Ageing. 2022 Dec 22;19(1):67. doi: 10.1186/s12979-022-00323-7.


Background: Obesity rates are increasing worldwide. Obesity leads to many complications, including predisposing individuals to the development of cognitive impairment as they age. Immune dysregulation, including inflammaging (e.g., increased circulating cytokines) and immunosenescence (declining immune system function), commonly occur in obesity and aging and may impact cognitive impairment. As such, immune system changes across the lifespan may impact the effects of obesity on neuroinflammation and associated cognitive impairment. However, the role of age in obesity-induced neuroinflammation and cognitive impairment is unclear. To further define this putative relationship, the current study examined metabolic and inflammatory profiles, along with cognitive changes using a high-fat diet (HFD) mouse model of obesity.

Results: First, HFD promoted age-related changes in hippocampal gene expression. Given this early HFD-induced aging phenotype, we fed HFD to young adult and middle-aged mice to determine the effect of age on inflammatory responses, metabolic profile, and cognitive function. As anticipated, HFD caused a dysmetabolic phenotype in both age groups. However, older age exacerbated HFD cognitive and neuroinflammatory changes, with a bi-directional regulation of hippocampal inflammatory gene expression.

Conclusions: Collectively, these data indicate that HFD promotes an early aging phenotype in the brain, which is suggestive of inflammaging and immunosenescence. Furthermore, age significantly compounded the impact of HFD on cognitive outcomes and on the regulation of neuroinflammatory programs in the brain.

Keywords: Aging; Brain; Cognitive impairment; High-fat diet; Inflammation; Mouse; Obesity; RNA-seq.