Pre- and postnatal high fat feeding differentially affects the structure and integrity of the neurovascular unit of 16-month old male and female mice

Contu, Laura; Nizari, Shereen; Heath, Christopher J. and Hawkes, Cheryl A. (2019). Pre- and postnatal high fat feeding differentially affects the structure and integrity of the neurovascular unit of 16-month old male and female mice. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13, article no. 1045.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2019.01045

Abstract

Compelling experimental and clinical evidence supports a role for maternal obesity in offspring health. Adult children of obese mothers are at greater risk of obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke. These offspring may also be at greater risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases for which mid-life obesity is a risk factor. Rodent diet-induced obesity models have shown that high fat (HF) diet consumption damages the integrity of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in the adult brain. However, there is currently little information about the effect of chronic HF feeding on the BBB of aged animals. Moreover, the long-term consequences of maternal obesity on the cerebrovasculature of aged offspring are not known. This study determined the impact of pre- and postnatal HF diet on the structure and integrity of cerebral blood vessels in aged male and female mice.

Female C57Bl/6 mice were fed either a 10% fat control (C) or 45% HF diet before mating and during gestation and lactation. At weaning, male and female offspring were fed the C or HF diet until sacrifice at 16-months of age. Both dams and offspring fed the HF diet weighed significantly more than mice fed the C diet. Postnatal HF diet exposure increased hippocampal BBB leakiness in female offspring, in association with loss of astrocyte endfoot coverage of arteries. Markers of tight junctions, pericytes or smooth muscle cells were not altered by pre- or postnatal HF diet. Male offspring born to HF-fed mothers showed decreased parenchymal GFAP expression compared to offspring of mothers fed C diet, while microglial and macrophage markers were higher in the same female diet group. In addition, female offspring exposed to the HF diet for their entire lifespan showed more significant changes in vessel structure, BBB permeability and inflammation compared to male animals.

These results suggest that the long-term impact of prenatal HF diet on the integrity of cerebral blood vessels differs between male and female offspring depending on the postnatal diet. This may have implications for the prevention and management of age- and obesity-related cerebrovascular diseases that differentially affect men and women.

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