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High fat induces acute and chronic inflammation in the hypothalamus: effect of high-fat diet, palmitate and TNF-α on appetite-regulating NPY neurons



Consumption of dietary fat is one of the key factors leading to obesity. High-fat diet (HFD)-induced obesity is characterized by induction of inflammation in the hypothalamus; however, the temporal regulation of proinflammatory markers and their impact on hypothalamic appetite-regulating neuropeptide Y/agouti-related peptide (NPY/AgRP) neurons remains undefined.


Mice were injected with an acute lipid infusion for 24 h or fed a HFD over 8–20 weeks. Characterized mouse NPY/AgRP hypothalamic cell lines were used for in vitro experimentation. Immunohistochemistry in brain slices or quantitative real-time PCR in cell lines, was performed to determine changes in the expression of key inflammatory markers and neuropeptides.


Hypothalamic inflammation, indicated by tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α expression and astrocytosis in the arcuate nucleus, was evident following acute lipid infusion. HFD for 8 weeks suppressed TNF-α, while significantly increasing heat-shock protein 70 and ciliary neurotrophic factor, both neuroprotective components. HFD for 20 weeks induced TNF-α expression in NPY/AgRP neurons, suggesting a detrimental temporal regulatory mechanism. Using NPY/AgRP hypothalamic cell lines, we found that palmitate provoked a mixed inflammatory response on a panel of inflammatory and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress genes, whereas TNF-α significantly upregulated IκBα, nuclear factor (NF)-κB and interleukin-6 mRNA levels. Palmitate and TNF-α exposure predominantly induced NPY mRNA levels. Utilizing an I kappa B kinase β (IKKβ) inhibitor, we demonstrated that these effects potentially occur via the inflammatory IKKβ/NF-κB pathway.


These findings indicate that acute lipid and chronic HFD feeding in vivo, as well as acute palmitate and TNF-α exposure in vitro, induce markers of inflammation or ER stress in the hypothalamic appetite-stimulating NPY/AgRP neurons over time, which may contribute to a dramatic alteration in NPY/AgRP content or expression. Acute and chronic HFD feeding in vivo temporally regulates arcuate TNF-α expression with reactive astrocytosis, which suggests a time-dependent neurotrophic or neurotoxic role of lipids.

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We thank the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) (DDB, MBW), Canadian Diabetes Association (DDB, MBW) and Canada Research Chairs Program (DDB) for funding this study. Scholarship support through the Banting and Best Diabetes Research Centre (to PSD, LW), CIHR Fellowship (to LW), NSERC Studentships (to PSD and DQT), and an Ontario Graduate Scholarship (to PSD and DQT) is much appreciated.

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Correspondence to D D Belsham.

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Dalvi, P., Chalmers, J., Luo, V. et al. High fat induces acute and chronic inflammation in the hypothalamus: effect of high-fat diet, palmitate and TNF-α on appetite-regulating NPY neurons. Int J Obes 41, 149–158 (2017).

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