Protein-folding stress at the Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) occurs in the hypothalamus during diet-induced obesity (DIO) and is linked to metabolic disease development. ER stress is buffered by the activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR), a controlled network of pathways inducing a set of genes that recovers ER function. However, it is unclear whether hypothalamic ER stress during DIO results from obesity related changes or from direct nutrient effects in the brain. We here investigated mRNA expression of UPR markers in the hypothalamus of rats that were exposed to a free choice high-fat high-sugar (fcHFHS) diet for 1 week and then overnight fed ad libitum, or fasted, or fat/sugar deprived (i.e., switched from obesogenic diet to chow). In addition, we determined the direct effects of fat/sugar on mRNA expression of hypothalamus UPR markers by intracarotic infusions of intralipids and/or glucose in chow-fed rats that were fasted overnight. Short term (1 week) exposure to fcHFHS diet increased adiposity compared to chow-feeding. Short term exposure to a fcHFHS diet, followed by mild food restriction overnight, induced hypothalamic ER stress in rats as characterized by an increase in spliced to unspliced X-box binding protein 1 mRNA ratio in hypothalamus of fcHFHS fed rats compared to chow fed rats. Moreover, infused lipids toward the brain of overnight fasted rats, were able to induce a similar response. Non-restricted ad libitum fcHFHS-diet fed or totally fasted rats did not show altered ratios. We also observed a clear increase in hypothalamic activating transcription factor 4 mRNA in rats on the fcHFHS diet while being ad libitum fed or when infused with intralipid via the carotic artery compared to vehicle infusions. However, we did not observe induction of downstream targets implying that this effect is a more general stress response and not related to ER stress. Overall, we conclude that the hypothalamic stress response might be a sensitive sensor of fat and energy status.

Original languageEnglish
Article number270
Pages (from-to)270
JournalFrontiers in neuroscience
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2017


  • ER stress response
  • Fatty acids
  • Food restriction
  • Hypothalamus
  • Journal Article
  • Sugar

Cite this