Our group recently demonstrated that maternal high-fat diet (HFD) consumption is associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, increased apoptosis, and changes in gluconeogenic gene expression and chromatin structure in fetal nonhuman primate (NHP) liver. However, little is known about the long-term effects that a HFD has on hepatic nervous system development in offspring, a system that plays an important role in regulating hepatic metabolism. Utilizing immunohistochemistry and Real-Time PCR, we quantified sympathetic nerve fiber density, apoptosis, inflammation, and other autonomic components in the livers of fetal and one-year old Japanese macaques chronically exposed to a HFD. We found that HFD exposure in-utero and throughout the postnatal period (HFD/HFD), when compared to animals receiving a CTR diet for the same developmental period (CTR/CTR), is associated with a 1.7 fold decrease in periportal sympathetic innervation, a 5 fold decrease in parenchymal sympathetic innervation, and a 2.5 fold increase in hepatic apoptosis in the livers of one-year old male animals. Additionally, we observed an increase in hepatic inflammation and a decrease in a key component of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway in one-year old HFD/HFD offspring. Taken together, these findings reinforce the impact that continuous exposure to a HFD has in the development of long-term hepatic pathologies in offspring and highlights a potential neuroanatomical basis for hepatic metabolic dysfunction.
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