Stress-related disorders involve systemic alterations, including disruption of the intestinal microbial community. Given the putative connections between the microbiota, immunity, neural function, and behaviour, we investigated the potential for microbe-induced gut-to-brain signalling to modulate the impact of stress on host behaviour and immunoregulation.
Male C57BL/6 mice treated orally over 28 days with either Lactobacillus rhamnosus (JB-1) ™ or vehicle were subjected to chronic social defeat and assessed for alterations in behaviour and immune cell phenotype. 16S rRNA sequencing and mass spectrometry were employed to analyse the faecal microbial community and metabolite profile.
Treatment with JB-1 decreased stress-induced anxiety-like behaviour and prevented deficits in social interaction with conspecifics. However, JB-1 did not alter development of aggressor avoidance following social defeat. Microbial treatment attenuated stress-related activation of dendritic cells while increasing IL-10+ regulatory T cells. Furthermore, JB-1 modulated the effect of stress on faecal metabolites with neuroactive and immunomodulatory properties. Exposure to social defeat altered faecal microbial community composition and reduced species richness and diversity, none of which was prevented by JB-1. Stress-related microbiota disruptions persisted in vehicle-treated mice for 3 weeks following stressor cessation.
These data demonstrate that despite the complexity of the gut microbiota, exposure to a single microbial strain can protect against certain stress-induced behaviours and systemic immune alterations without preventing dysbiosis. This work supports microbe-based interventions for stress-related disorders.