Energy-dense, yet nutritionally-poor food is a high-risk factor for mental health disorders. This is of particular concern during adolescence, a period often associated with increased consumption of low nutritional content food and higher prevalence of mental health disorders. Indeed, there is an urgent need to understand the mechanisms linking unhealthy diet and mental disorders. Deficiency in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFAs) is a hallmark of poor nutrition and mood disorders.
Here, we developed a mouse model of n-3 PUFAs deficiency lasting from adolescence into adulthood. Starting nutritional deficits in dietary n-3 PUFAs during adolescence decreased n-3 PUFAs in both medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and nucleus accumbens, increased anxiety-like behavior and decreased cognitive function in adulthood.
Importantly, we discovered that endocannabinoid/mGlu5-mediated long-term depression in the mPFC and accumbens was abolished in adult n-3-deficient mice. Additionally, mPFC NMDAR-dependent long-term potentiation was also lacking in the n-3-deficient group. Pharmacological enhancement of the mGlu5/eCB signaling complex, by positive allosteric modulation of mGlu5 or inhibition of endocannabinoid 2-arachidonylglycerol (2-AG) degradation, fully restored synaptic plasticity and normalized emotional and cognitive behaviors in malnourished adult mice.
Our data support a model where nutrition is a key environmental factor influencing the working synaptic range into adulthood, long after the end of the perinatal period.
These findings have important implications for the identification of nutritional risk factors for disease and design of new treatments for the behavioral deficits associated with nutritional n-3 PUFAs' deficiency.
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