This study examined how a maternal high-fat diet (HD) during lactation and exposure of offspring to isolation stress influence the susceptibility of offspring to the development of obesity. C57BL/6J mice were fed a commercial diet (CD) during pregnancy and a CD or HD during lactation. Male offspring were weaned at three weeks of age, fed a CD until seven weeks of age, and fed a CD or HD until 11 weeks of age. Offspring were housed alone (isolation stress) or at six per cage (ordinary circumstances). Thus, offspring were assigned to one of eight groups: dams fed a CD or HD during lactation and offspring fed a CD or HD and housed under ordinary circumstances or isolation stress. Serum corticosterone level was significantly elevated by isolation stress. High-fat feeding of offspring reduced their serum corticosterone level, which was significantly elevated by a maternal HD. A maternal HD and isolation stress had combined effects in elevating the serum corticosterone level. These findings suggest that a maternal HD during lactation enhances the stress sensitivity of offspring. White adipose tissue weights were significantly increased by a maternal HD and isolation stress and by their combination. In addition, significant adipocyte hypertrophy was induced by a maternal HD and isolation stress and exacerbated by their combination. Thus, a maternal HD and isolation stress promote visceral fat accumulation and adipocyte hypertrophy, accelerating the progression of obesity through their combined effects. The mechanism may involve enhanced fatty acid synthesis and lipid influx from blood into adipose tissue. These findings demonstrate that a maternal HD during lactation may increase the susceptibility of offspring to the development of stress-induced obesity.
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