Obesity is associated with an increased risk of depression. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether obesity is a causative factor for the development of depression and what is the molecular pathway(s) that link these two disorders. Using lipidomic and transcriptomic methods we identified a mechanism that links exposure to a high-fat diet (HFD) in mice with alterations in hypothalamic function that lead to depression. Consumption of an HFD selectively induced accumulation of palmitic acid in the hypothalamus, suppressed the 3´, 5´-cyclic AMP (cAMP)/protein kinase A (PKA) signaling pathway, and increased the concentration of free-fatty acid receptor 1 (FFAR1). Deficiency of phosphodiesterase 4A (PDE4A), an enzyme that degrades cAMP and modulates stimulatory regulative G-protein (Gs)-coupled G protein-coupled receptor signaling, protected animals either from genetic- or dietary induced depression phenotype.
These findings suggest that dietary intake of saturated fats disrupts hypothalamic functions by suppressing cAMP/PKA signaling through activation of PDE4A. FFAR1 inhibition and/or an increase of cAMP signaling in the hypothalamus could offer potential therapeutic targets to counteract the effects of dietary or genetically induced obesity on depression.