Adult microbiota-deficient mice have distinct dendritic morphological changes: Differential effects in the amygdala and hippocampus

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Luczynski, Pauline
Whelan, Seán O.
O'Sullivan, Colette
Clarke, Gerard
Shanahan, Fergus
Dinan, Timothy G.
Cryan, John F.
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Increasing evidence implicates the microbiota in the regulation of brain and behaviour. Germ‐free mice (GF; microbiota deficient from birth) exhibit altered stress hormone signalling and anxiety‐like behaviours as well as deficits in social cognition. Although the mechanisms underlying the ability of the gut microbiota to influence stress responsivity and behaviour remain unknown, many lines of evidence point to the amygdala and hippocampus as likely targets. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine if the volume and dendritic morphology of the amygdala and hippocampus differ in GF versus conventionally colonized (CC) mice. Volumetric estimates revealed significant amygdalar and hippocampal expansion in GF compared to CC mice. We also studied the effect of GF status on the level of single neurons in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) and ventral hippocampus. In the BLA, the aspiny interneurons and pyramidal neurons of GF mice exhibited dendritic hypertrophy. The BLA pyramidal neurons of GF mice had more thin, stubby and mushroom spines. In contrast, the ventral hippocampal pyramidal neurons of GF mice were shorter, less branched and had less stubby and mushroom spines. When compared to controls, dentate granule cells of GF mice were less branched but did not differ in spine density. These findings suggest that the microbiota is required for the normal gross morphology and ultrastructure of the amygdala and hippocampus and that this neural remodelling may contribute to the maladaptive stress responsivity and behavioural profile observed in GF mice.
Brain volume , Dendritic spines , Design-based stereology , Germ-free mouse , Microbiota-gut-brain axis
Luczynski, P., Whelan, S. O., O'Sullivan, C., Clarke, G., Shanahan, F., Dinan, T. G. and Cryan, J. F. (2016) 'Adult microbiota-deficient mice have distinct dendritic morphological changes: differential effects in the amygdala and hippocampus', European Journal of Neuroscience, 44(9), pp. 2654-2666. (13pp.) DOI: 10.1111/ejn.13291