Neurobiological Effects of a Probiotic-Supplemented Diet in Chronically Stressed Male Long-Evans Rats: Evidence of Enhanced Resilience.




Probiotics that regulate the microbiome-gut-brain axis and provide mental health benefits to the host are referred to as psychobiotics. Preclinical studies have demonstrated psychobiotic effects on early life stress-induced anxiety- and depression-related behavior in rodents; however, the specific mechanisms remain ill-defined. In the current study, we investigated the effects of probiotic supplementation on neurobiological responses to chronic stress in adult male Long-Evans rats. Twenty-four rats were randomly assigned to probiotic (PB) or vehicle control (VEH) groups, then to either chronic unpredictable stress (CUS) or no-stress control (CON) conditions within each group (n = 6/subgroup). We hypothesized that PB supplementation would reduce markers of anxiety and enhance emotional resilience, especially in the CUS animals. In the cognitive uncertainty task, a nonsignificant trend was observed indicating that the PB-supplemented animals spent more time oriented toward the food reward than VEH animals. In the open-field task, CUS-PB animals spent more time in the center of the arena than CUS-VEH animals, an effect not observed between the two CON groups. In the swim task, the PB animals, regardless of stress assignment, exhibited increased floating, suggesting a conserved response in a challenging context. Focusing on the endocrine measures, higher dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)-to-corticosterone fecal metabolite ratios, a correlate of emotional resilience, were observed in PB animals. Further, PB animals exhibited reduced microglia immunoreactivity in the basolateral amygdala, possibly indicating a neuroprotective effect of PB supplements in this rodent model. These results provide evidence that PB supplementation interacts with stress exposure to influence adaptive responses associated with endocrine, neural, and behavioral indices of anxiety.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibneur.2021.10.004.