Objectives: Excessive consumption of high fat and high sugar (HFHS) diets alters reward processing, behaviour, and changes gut microbiota profiles. Previous studies in gnotobiotic mice also provide evidence that these gut microorganisms may influence social behaviour. To further investigate these interactions, we examined the impact of the intermittent access to a HFHS diet on social behaviour, gene expression and microbiota composition in adolescent rats. Methods: Male rats were permitted intermittent daily access (2 h / day) to a palatable HFHS chow diet for 28 days across adolescence. Social interaction, social memory and novel object recognition were assessed during this period. Following testing, RT-PCR was conducted on hippocampal and prefrontal cortex (PFC) samples. 16S ribosomal RNA amplicon sequencing was used for identification and relative quantification of bacterial taxa in faecal samples. Results: We observed reduced social interaction behaviours, impaired social memory and novel object recognition in HFHS diet rats compared to chow controls. RT-PCR revealed reduced levels of monoamine oxidase A (Maoa), catechol-O-methyltransferase (Comt) and brain derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) mRNA in the PFC of HFHS diet rats. Faecal microbiota analysis demonstrated that the relative abundance of a number of specific bacterial taxa differed significantly between the two diet groups, in particular, Lachnospiraceae and Ruminoccoceae bacteria. Discussion: Intermittent HFHS diet consumption evoked physiological changes to the brain, particularly expression of mRNA associated with reward and neuroplasticity, and gut microbiome. These changes may underpin the observed alterations to social behaviours.
- Social interaction