Gut microbiota composition modulates inflammation and structure of the vagal afferent pathway

Author: J S Kim1, R A Kirkland1, S H Lee1, C R Cawthon1, K W Rzepka2, D M Minaya2, G de Lartigue3, K Czaja2, Cb de La Serre4
Author Information:
1 Dept. of Foods and Nutrition.
2 Dept. of Veterinary Biosciences and Diagnostic Imaging, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA.
3 Dept. of Pharmacodynamics, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.
4 Dept. of Foods and Nutrition. Electronic address:
Conference/Journal: Physiol Behav
Date published: 2020 Jul 16
Other: Pages: 113082 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2020.113082. , Word Count: 361

Vagal afferent neurons (VAN), located in the nodose ganglion (NG) innervate the gut and terminate in the nucleus of solitary tract (NTS) in the brainstem. They are the primary sensory neurons integrating gut-derived signals to regulate meal size. Chronic high-fat diet (HFD) consumption impairs vagally mediated satiety, resulting in overfeeding. There is evidence that HFD consumption leads to alterations in both vagal nerve function and structural integrity. HFD also leads to marked gut microbiota dysbiosis; in rodent models, dysbiosis is sufficient to induce weight gain. In this study, we investigated the effect of microbiota dysbiosis on gut-brain vagal innervation independently of diet. To do so, we recolonized microbiota-depleted rats with gastrointestinal (GI) contents isolated from donor animals fed either a HFD (45 or 60% fat) or a low fat diet (LFD, 13% fat). We used two different depletion models while maintaining the animals on LFD: 1) conventionally raised Fischer and Wistar rats that underwent a depletion paradigm using an antibiotic cocktail and 2) germ free (GF) raised Fischer rats. Following recolonization, receiver animals were designated as ConvLF and ConvHF. Fecal samples were collected throughout these studies and analyzed via 16S Illumina sequencing. In both models, bacteria that were identified as characteristic of HFD were successfully transferred to recipient animals. Three weeks post-colonization, ConvHF rats showed significant increases in ionized calcium-binding adapter molecule-1 (Iba1) positive immune cells in the NG compared to ConvLF animals. Additionally, using isolectin B4 (IB4) staining to identify c-fibers, we found that, compared to ConvLF animals, ConvHF rats displayed decreased innervation at the level of the medial NTS; c-fibers at this level are believed to be primarily of vagal origin. This alteration in vagal structure was associated with a loss in satiety induced by the gut peptide cholecystokinin (CCK). Increased presence of immunocompetent Iba1+ cells along the gut-brain axis and alterations in NTS innervation were still evident in ConvHF rats compared to ConvLF animals 12 weeks post-colonization and were associated with increases in food intake and body weight (BW). We conclude from these data that microbiota dysbiosis can alter gut-brain vagal innervation, potentially via recruitment and/or activation of immune cells.

KEYWORDS: dysbiosis; gut-brain axis; microglia; vagal afferents; vagal remodeling.

PMID: 32682966 DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2020.113082