Intestinal Microbiota Shapes Gut Physiology and Regulates Enteric Neurons and Glia
Background: The intestinal microbiota plays an important role in regulating gastrointestinal (GI) physiology in part through interactions with the enteric nervous system (ENS). Alterations in the gut microbiome frequently occur together with disturbances in enteric neural control in pathophysiological conditions. However, the mechanisms by which the microbiota regulates GI function and the structure of the ENS are incompletely understood. Using a mouse model of antibiotic (Abx)-induced
... depletion, we sought to determine the molecular mechanisms of microbial regulation of intestinal function and the integrity of the ENS. Spontaneous reconstitution of the Abx-depleted microbiota was used to assess the plasticity of structure and function of the GI tract and neuronal survival and neurogenesis in the ENS. Results: Adult male and female Abx-treated mice exhibited alterations in GI structure and function, including a longer small intestine, slower transit time, increased carbachol-stimulated ion transport and increased intestinal permeability. These alterations were accompanied by the loss of enteric neurons in the ileum and proximal colon in both submucosal and myenteric plexuses. A reduction in the number of enteric glia were only observed in the ileal myenteric plexus. Recovery of the microbiota restored intestinal function and stimulated enteric neurogenesis leading to increases in the number of enteric glia and neurons. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) supplementation enhanced neuronal survival alongside bacterial depletion but had no effect on neuronal recovery once the Abx-induced neuronal loss was established. In contrast, SCFA were able to restore neuronal numbers after Abx-induced neuronal loss, demonstrating that SCFA stimulate enteric neurogenesis in vivo. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate a role for the gut microbiota in regulating the structure function of the GI tract in a sex-independent manner. Moreover, the microbiota is essential for the maintenance of ENS integrity, by regulating enteric neuronal survival and promoting neurogenesis. Molecular determinants of the microbiota, LPS and SCFA, regulate enteric neuronal survival, while SCFA also stimulates neurogenesis. Our data reveal new insights into the role of the gut microbiota that could lead to therapeutic developments for the treatment of enteric neuropathies.