OBJECTIVES: The hypothalamus lies adjacent to the third ventricle and is in close proximity with the median eminence (ME), a circumventricular organ with an incomplete blood-brain barrier (BBB) which controls direct entry of nutrients into the brain. The blood-CSF barrier of the hypothalamus shows dynamic changes upon neuroendocrine events and adjusts permeability with the tight junction (TJ) complex. It has been shown that chronic exposure to a high-fat diet (HFD) affects BBB permeability. HFD also induces leptin resistance and alters neuropeptide expression in the arcuate nucleus (Arc) of the hypothalamus starting early during overnutrition. We hypothesized altered integrity of the BBB to occur after exposing rats to a free-choice high-fat high-sugar (fcHFHS) diet for 1 week.
METHODS: We measured diffusion of Evans blue dye over the ME and assessed expression of the TJ proteins ZO-1, claudin-5, and occludin in the tanycytic wall of the third ventricle. Furthermore, we assessed protein expression of glucose transporter 1 (GLUT-1), which is highly expressed in the Arc-ME complex and facilitates glucose transport over the BBB.
RESULTS: fcHFHS-fed rats increased caloric intake compared to control, however, there was no effect of the fcHFHS diet on permeability of the BBB, nor changes in protein expression of tight TJ proteins or GLUT-1. Fasting acutely affects the BBB and we hypothesized that exposure to the fcHFHS diet affects the BBB differently compared to chow after fasting. We did not, however, find any differences in Evans blue diffusion nor protein expression between chow- and fcHFHS-fed rats when fasted overnight.
CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that short-term consumption of a fcHFHS diet does not change permeability or diffusion in the hypothalamus barrier in ad libitum fed or fasted rats.