Effects of chronic testosterone administration on the degree of preference for a high-fat diet and body weight in gonadal-intact and ovariectomized female rats

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Energy balance and reproductive functions are closely linked in some species. The sex hormones (estrogens and androgens) are involved in the regulation of appetite, metabolism, body weight (BW), and body composition in mammals. Previously, we showed that the effects of testosterone on BW, appetite, and fat weight were markedly affected by alterations to the gonadal hormonal milieu. In this study, we examined whether testosterone administration changes food preferences and whether these effects of testosterone depend on gonadal status in female rats. We also evaluated the underlying mechanisms responsible for these effects, focusing on hypothalamic inflammation and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. In gonadal-intact (sham) female rats, chronic testosterone administration promoted a preference for a high-fat diet (HFD) and increased BW gain, fat weight, and adipocyte size, whereas no such effects were observed in ovariectomized (OVX) rats. Testosterone administration increased hypothalamic interleukin-1 mRNA expression in the sham rats, but not the OVX rats. On the contrary, testosterone administration decreased the hypothalamic mRNA levels of ER stress-response genes in the OVX rats, but not the sham rats. These testosterone-induced alterations in OVX rats might represent a regulatory mechanism for preventing hypothalamic inflammation and the overconsumption of a HFD. In conclusion, testosterone’s effects on food preferences and the subsequent changes were affected by gonadal status. Testosterone-induced changes in hypothalamic inflammatory cytokine production and ER stress might be related to these findings.

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