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2023 Jan 24

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol

High fat/high sucrose diet worsens metabolic outcomes and widespread hypersensitivity following early life stress exposure in female mice.


Frick JM, Eller OC, Foright RM, Levasseur BM, Yang X, Wang R, Winter MK, O'Neil MF, Morris ME, Thyfault JP, Christianson JA
Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2023 Jan 24.
PMID: 36693166.


Exposure to stress early in life has been associated with adult-onset co-morbidities such as chronic pain, metabolic dysregulation, obesity, and inactivity. We have established an early life stress model using neonatal maternal separation (NMS) in mice, which displays evidence of increased body weight and adiposity, widespread mechanical allodynia, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation in male mice. Early life stress and consumption of a western style diet contribute to the development of obesity, however, relatively few pre-clinical studies have been performed in female rodents, which are known to be protected against diet induced obesity and metabolic dysfunction. In this study we gave naïve and NMS female mice access to a high-fat/high-sucrose (HFS) diet beginning at 4 weeks of age. Robust increases in body weight and fat were observed in HFS-fed NMS mice during the first 10 weeks on the diet, driven partly by increased food intake. Female NMS mice on a HFS diet showed widespread mechanical hypersensitivity compared to either naïve mice on a HFS diet or NMS mice on a control diet. HFS diet-fed NMS mice also had impaired glucose tolerance and fasting hyperinsulinemia. Strikingly, female NMS mice on a HFS diet showed evidence of hepatic steatosis with increased triglyceride levels and altered glucocorticoid receptor levels and phosphorylation state. They also exhibited increased energy expenditure as observed via indirect calorimetry and expression of pro-inflammatory markers in perigonadal adipose. Altogether, our data suggest that early life stress exposure increased the susceptibility of female mice to develop diet-induced metabolic dysfunction and pain-like behaviors.