Neurodegeneration in juvenile Iberian pigs with diet-induced nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Nicole Zeltser, Isabell Meyer, Gabriella V. Hernandez, Matthew J. Trahan, Rob K. Fanter, Mohammed Abo-Ismail, Hunter Glanz, Christine R. Strand, Douglas G. Burrin, Michael R. la Frano, Rodrigo Manjarín, Magdalena Maj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objective of this study was to investigate whether juvenile Iberian pigs with diet-induced nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), cholestasis, and gut dysbiosis would develop histological and metabolic markers of neurodegeneration in the frontal cortex (FC) and whether supplementing probiotics would influence the response to the diet. Twenty-eight juvenile Iberian pigs were fed for 10 wk either a control (CON) or high-fructose high-fat (HFF) diet with or without a commercial probiotic mixture. Compared with CON, HFF-fed pigs had a decreased number of neurons and an increase in reactive astrocytes in FC tissue. There was also a decrease in one-carbon metabolites choline and betaine and a marked accumulation of bile acids, cholesteryl esters, and polyol pathway intermediates in FC of HFF-fed pigs, which were associated with markers of neurodegeneration and accentuated with the severity of NAFLD. Betaine depletion in FC tissue was negatively correlated with choline-derived phospholipids in colon content, whereas primary conjugated bile acids in FC were associated with cholestasis. Plasma kynurenine-to-tryptophan quotient, as a marker of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase activity, and intestinal dysbiosis were also correlated with neuronal loss and astrogliosis. Recognition memory test and FC levels of amyloid-b and phosphorylated Tau did not differ between diets, whereas probiotics increased amyloid-b and memory loss in HFF-fed pigs. In conclusion, our results show evidence of neurodegeneration in FC of juvenile Iberian pigs and establish a novel pediatric model to investigate the role of gut-liver-brain axis in diet-induced NAFLD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E592-E606
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 27 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Bile acids
  • Frontal cortex
  • Metabolomics
  • Microbiome
  • One-carbon metabolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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