A scoping review of rodent studies investigating the epigenetic mechanisms in the brain underlying the effects of diet on depressive-like behaviour




Sánchez-Lafuente, Carla L.
Reive, Brady S.
Kalynchuk, Lisa E.
Caruncho, Hector J.

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A healthy diet has been highly associated with a decreased risk for mental health problems such as major depression. Evidence from human studies shows that diet can influence mood but there is a poor understanding of the molecular mechanisms behind these effects, especially the role of epigenetic alterations in the brain. Our objective was to use the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) format to gather all recent studies using animal models that investigate direct or indirect (on the offspring) effects of diet on depressive symptoms, including studies that assess epigenetic mechanisms in the brain. In this format, two authors conducted independent database searches of PubMed, Web of Science, and Academic search premier using one search block “diet epigenetics depression” to find papers published between 2000 and 2022. Relevant studies were selected using pre-defined inclusion/exclusion criteria that were performed independently by the two authors before a subset of studies were selected for qualitative analysis. A total of 11 studies met the inclusion criteria for this systematic scoping review. We found that the literature focuses primarily on the effects of individual nutrients, instead of a specific diet, on despair-like behaviour and anxiety. Studies are heterogenous with the techniques used to asses epigenetic changes in the brain and therefore making it hard to reach common mechanistic explanations. However, all studies report diet-induced changes in the epigenome mainly by the action of DNA methylation, histone acetylation and microRNAs that are parallelel with changes in behaviour. Moreover studies show that inadequate maternal diets can make the offspring more susceptible to develop anxiety and depressive-like behaviour later in life, which is paralleled with changes in the epigenome. Overall, this systematic review shows that there is some literature suggesting a role of brain epigenetics on the diet-induced protective or detrimental effects, specifically on anxiety and depressive-like behaviour. However, studies are limited, lacking the study of some types of diets, behavioural tasks or epigenetic mechanisms. Nevertherless, it shows the importance of genome-environment interactions, bringing new insights towards mechanisms that could be involved in the pathophysiology of mood disorders as well as putative therapeutic targets.



diet, depression, animal models, brain epigenetics, DNA methylation, histone acetylation, microRNA


Sánchez-Lafuente, C. L., Reive, B. S., Kalynchuk, L. E., & Caruncho, H. J. (2022). “A scoping review of rodent studies investigating the epigenetic mechanisms in the brain underlying the effects of diet on depressive-like behaviour.” Biomedicines, 10(12), 3213. https://doi.org/10.3390/biomedicines10123213