High Fructose Corn Syrup-Moderate Fat Diet Potentiates Anxio-Depressive Behavior and Alters Ventral Striatal Neuronal Signaling

Ayanabha Chakraborti, Christopher Graham, Sophie Chehade, Bijal Vashi, Alan Umfress, Pradeep Kurup, Benjamin Vickers, H. Alexander Chen, Rahul Telange, Taylor Berryhill, William Van Der Pol, Mickie Powell, Stephen Barnes, Casey Morrow, Daniel L. Smith, M. Shahid Mukhtar, Stephen Watts, Gregory Kennedy, James Bibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The neurobiological mechanisms that mediate psychiatric comorbidities associated with metabolic disorders such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes remain obscure. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is widely used in beverages and is often included in food products with moderate or high fat content that have been linked to many serious health issues including diabetes and obesity. However, the impact of such foods on the brain has not been fully characterized. Here, we evaluated the effects of long-term consumption of a HFCS-Moderate Fat diet (HFCS-MFD) on behavior, neuronal signal transduction, gut microbiota, and serum metabolomic profile in mice to better understand how its consumption and resulting obesity and metabolic alterations relate to behavioral dysfunction. Mice fed HFCS-MFD for 16 weeks displayed enhanced anxiogenesis, increased behavioral despair, and impaired social interactions. Furthermore, the HFCS-MFD induced gut microbiota dysbiosis and lowered serum levels of serotonin and its tryptophan-based precursors. Importantly, the HFCS-MFD altered neuronal signaling in the ventral striatum including reduced inhibitory phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β), increased expression of ΔFosB, increased Cdk5-dependent phosphorylation of DARPP-32, and reduced PKA-dependent phosphorylation of the GluR1 subunit of the AMPA receptor. These findings suggest that HFCS-MFD-induced changes in the gut microbiota and neuroactive metabolites may contribute to maladaptive alterations in ventral striatal function that underlie neurobehavioral impairment. While future studies are essential to further evaluate the interplay between these factors in obesity and metabolic syndrome-associated behavioral comorbidities, these data underscore the important role of peripheral-CNS interactions in diet-induced behavioral and brain function. This study also highlights the clinical need to address neurobehavioral comorbidities associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number669410
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
StatePublished - May 26 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • anxiety
  • depression
  • diet
  • high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • nucleus accumbens
  • serotonin
  • tryptophan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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