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Maternal diet before and during pregnancy modulates microglial activation and neurogenesis in the postpartum rat brain

journal contribution
posted on 2021-11-01, 00:00 authored by S Xavier, A Soch, S Younesi, S Malik, S J Spencer, Luba SominskyLuba Sominsky
The implications of poor maternal diet on offspring metabolic and neuroimmune development are well established. Increasing evidence now suggests that maternal obesity and poor diet can also increase the risk of postpartum mood disorders, but the mechanisms are unknown. Here we investigated the effects of a poor, high-fat-high-sugar diet (HFSD) on peripheral and central inflammation, neurogenesis and postpartum anxiety-like behaviours. We hypothesised that long-term consumption of a HFSD pre- and post-conception would increase the levels of circulating cytokines and induce microglial activation, particularly in the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARC), as the primary brain region involved in the integration of satiety signalling; and this would lead to increased anxiety, stress responsivity and disrupted neurogenesis. We further hypothesised that these effects would be ameliorated by consumption of a healthier diet during pregnancy – specifically a diet high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). As expected, the HFSD significantly increased pre-conception body weight, elevated circulating cytokines and activated microglia in the ARC, as well as in the basolateral amygdala. The HFSD also significantly increased the numbers of immature (doublecortin (DCX)-positive) neurons in the subgranular/granular region of the hippocampus, a neurogenic response that was, surprisingly, mimicked by consumption of a diet high in omega-3 PUFAs. Despite these effects of peri-pregnancy dietary imbalance, we detected no differences in anxiety-like behaviours or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis reactivity between the groups. A shift to a healthier diet post-conception reversed the peripheral inflammation and alleviated the microglial activation. These novel data indicate the importance of a balanced peri-pregnancy diet and highlight the need for future research into key triggers that alter the neuroimmune balance in the maternal brain.



Brain, Behavior, and Immunity




185 - 197





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal