Iranian Journal of Neurology 2017. 16(4):192-200.

Molecular changes in obese and depressive patients are similar to neurodegenerative disorders
Laleh Habibi, Abbas Tafakhori, Rasoul Hadiani, Maryam Maserat-Mashhadi, Zeinab Kafrash, Shahla Torabi, Mohammad Azhdarzadeh, Seyed Mohammad Akrami, Morteza Mahmoudi, Rasoul Dinarvand


Background: Neurodegenerative disorders (NDs) are categorized as multifactorial conditions with different molecular and environmental causes. Disturbance of important signaling pathways, such as energy metabolism and inflammation induced by environmental agents, is involved in the pathophysiology of NDs. It has been proposed that changes in the lifestyle and nutrition (metabolism) during mid-life could trigger and accumulate cellular and molecular damages resulting in NDs during aging.

Methods: In order to test the hypothesis, we investigated the expression level of two energy metabolism-related [forkhead box O1 (FOXO1) and forkhead box O3 (FOXO3A)] and two pro-inflammatory cytokines [interleukin 1β (IL-1β) and IL-6] genes, using quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). Furthermore, changes in the ionic concentration of three essential heavy metals [iron (Fe), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn)] by atomic absorption spectroscopy in patients with NDs, depression, obesity, and diabetes type II, were evaluated and compared with the results of normal individuals.

Results: More than half of the participants in obesity, depression, and ND groups had significant up-regulation of FOXO1 and FOXO3A, down-regulation of IL-1β and IL-6, and higher levels of Fe and Cu in their blood. This pattern of gene expression was not repeated in diabetic patients.

Conclusion: It could be concluded that individuals affected with different levels of obesity and depression have increased risk of developing NDs later in life, probably through changes in energy metabolism, inflammatory pathways, and ionic concentrations.


Obesity; Depression; Neurodegeneration; Forkhead Box Protein; Heavy Metals; Lifestyle

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