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Chronic unpredictable mild stress combined with a high-fat diets aggravates atherosclerosis in rats

Shuling Wang, Gao Xiaoling, Li Pingting, Liu Shuqiang and Zeng Yuaner*

Author Affiliations

School of Chinese Herb Medicine, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou Higher Education Mega Center, 232 Waihuandong Road, Guangzhou 510006, China

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2014, 13:77  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-13-77

Published: 10 May 2014



Depression and high-fat diet are both known as independent risk factors for atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases, suggesting the interaction of psychological and physiological factors in the development of these diseases. The liver is a crucial organ that facilitate lipid metabolism especially in reverse cholesterol transport (RCT), while according to the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, depression as a kind of psychological stress has an influence on hepatic function. So there seem to be some links between depression and lipid metabolic disorders.


To investigate these links, we separately treated rats with chronic unpredictable mild stress (CMS) and/or a high-fat diet (HD) to evaluate the development of atherosclerosis and the expression of hepatic ABCG8, ABCG5, SR-BI, CYP7A1, LXRα, and LCAT which were associated with reverse cholesterol transport.


This study provided evidence that high-fat diet greatly decreased these genes expression related to RCT while chronic stress alone tended to promote RCT. Chronic unpredictable mild stress combined with a high-fat diet attenuated RCT and aggravated atherogenesis.


These observations suggested that chronic psychological stress alone is virtually propitious to lipid metabolism, however when under a condition of high-fat diet, it deteriorated atherosclerotic plague and did harm to RCT.

Chronic unpredictable mild stress; High-fat diet; Reverse cholesterol transport; Atherosclerosis