During development, the brain goes through fundamental processes, including organization of neural networks and plasticity. Environmental interventions may change initial brain programming, leading to long-lasting effects and altering the susceptibility to psychopathologies, including depression disorder. It is known that depression is a psychiatric disorder with a high prevalence worldwide, including high rates among adolescents. In this study, we evaluated whether social isolation in the prepubertal period and chronic use of high-fat diet (HFD) may induce depressive-like behavior in male adult rats. We also investigated hippocampal plasticity markers and neurotransmitter systems. We found both social isolation and HFD induced a depressive-like behavior in the forced swimming task. Moreover, chronic HFD reduced synaptic markers in hippocampus, demonstrated by reductions in βIII-tubulin (neuronal marker), PSD-95, SNAP-25, and neurotrophin-3. The HFD group also presented decreased glutamatergic and GABAergic receptors subunits. On the other hand, stress affected hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signaling pathways, and increased expression of subunit of the NMDA receptor (NR2A). Both factors (stress and diet) decreased GR in the hippocampus without affecting plasma corticosterone at basal levels. Interactions between early stress and HFD access were observed only in the BNDF receptor (tropomyosin receptor kinase B; TrkB) and synaptophysin. In summary, these findings showed that a brief social isolation and chronic HFD, during a sensitive developmental period, cause depressive-like behavior in adulthood. The mechanisms underlying these behavioral effects may involve changes in the levels of synaptic proteins in hippocampus: HFD consumption appears to affect synaptic markers, while social isolation affected BDNF signaling more significantly.
Early life environment Prepubertal period Social isolation Emotional responses BDNF High-calorie diets
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This work was financially supported by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) and the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (Capes).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All animal procedures were performed in strict accordance with the recommendations of the Brazilian Society for Neurosciences (SBNeC) and Brazilian Laws on the use of animals (Federal Law 11.794/2008), and were approved by the Institutional Ethical Committee (CEUA-UFRGS no. 25488).
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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