Introduction A diet high in saturated fat is well known to affect neuronal function and contribute to cognitive decline in experimental animals and humans. Fractalkine released from neurons acts on its receptor, CX3C chemokine receptor 1 (CX3CR1), in the microglia to regulate several brain functions. The present study addressed whether fractalkine-CX3CR1 signaling in the brain, especially the hippocampus, contributes to the cognitive deficits observed in diet-induced obese (DIO) mice. Research design and methods Mice were given 60% high-fat diet for 16 weeks. The expression of fractalkine and CX3CR1 in the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex of DIO mice was analyzed. Cognitive ability in the Y-maze test and hippocampal glutamate receptors and synaptic markers were observed in DIO and CX3CR1 antagonist-treated mice. Regulation of fractalkine and CX3CR1 expression in the hippocampus was examined following administration of a selective insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) receptor inhibitor and a tyrosine receptor kinase B (TrkB) antagonist in normal mice. Results DIO mice exhibited significant cognitive deficits in the Y-maze test and decrease in fractalkine and CX3CR1 in the hippocampus and amygdala compared with mice fed a control diet (CD mice). Administration of the CX3CR1 antagonist 18a in normal mice induced significant cognitive deficits in the Y-maze test. DIO mice and CX3CR1 antagonist-treated mice exhibited significant decreases in protein levels of NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor subunit (NR2A), AMPA (α-amino-5-methyl-3-hydroxy-4-isoxazole propionate) receptor subunit (GluR1) and postsynaptic density protein 95 in the hippocampus compared with their respective controls. Furthermore, plasma IGF-1 and hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor were significantly decreased in DIO mice compared with CD mice. Administration of a selective IGF-1 receptor inhibitor and a TrkB antagonist in normal mice significantly decreased fractalkine and CX3CR1 in the hippocampus. Conclusions These findings indicate that the cognitive decline observed in DIO mice is due, in part, to reduced fractalkine-CX3CR1 signaling in the corticolimbic system.
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