Background & Aims A high-fat diet (HFD) can cause serious health problems, including alteration of gastrointestinal transit, the exact mechanism of which is not clear. Several microRNAs (miRNAs) are involved in energy homeostasis, lipid metabolism, and HFD-induced weight gain. We investigated the role of miRNAs in HFD-induced damage to the enteric nervous system. Methods Male mice were fed a HFD (60% calories from fat) or regular diets (18% calories from fat) for 11 weeks. Mice on regular diets and HFDs were given intraperitoneal injections of Mir375 inhibitor or a negative control. Body weights, food intake, stool indices, and gastrointestinal transit (following Evans blue gavage) were measured. An enteric neuronal cell line (immorto-fetal enteric neuronal) and primary enteric neurons were used for in vitro studies. Results HFD delayed intestinal transit, which was associated with increased apoptosis and loss of colonic myenteric neurons. Mice fed a low-palmitate HFD did not develop a similar phenotype. Palmitate caused apoptosis of enteric neuronal cells associated with mitochondrial dysfunction and endoplasmic reticulum stress. Palmitate significantly increased the expression of Mir375 in vitro; transfection of cells with a Mir375 inhibitor prevented the palmitate-induced enteric neuronal cell apoptosis. Mir375 expression was increased in myenteric ganglia of mice fed HFD and associated with decreased levels of Mir375 target messenger RNAs, including Pdk1. Systemic injection of a Mir375 inhibitor for 5 weeks prevented HFD-induced delay in intestinal transit and morphologic changes. Conclusions HFDs delay colonic transit, partly by inducing apoptosis in enteric neuronal cells. This effect is mediated by Mir375 and is associated with reduced levels of Pdk1. Mir375 might be targeted to increase survival of enteric neurons and gastrointestinal motility.
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