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Role of short-chain fatty acids in the gut-brain axis in schizophrenia: contribution to immune activation and pathophysiology in humans and mice

By Lijun Bai, Wei Wang, Qingyan Ma, Zai Yang, Yajuan Fan, Yanmei Ju, Ruijin Guo, Qi Wang, Xin Mu, Bingbing Zhao, Yuan Gao, Xiaoyan He, Fengjie Gao, Li Qian, Ce Chen, Yunchun Chen, Chengge Gao, Xian-cang Ma

Posted 13 Apr 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.11.021915

Objective: Gut microbiota dysbiosis and aberrant gut-brain functional modules including short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) production and long-lasting immune activation (IA) are presented in schizophrenia. Given the key roles of gut microbiota and SCFA in shaping immunity, we propose that dysbiosis-induced SCFA upregulation could contribute to IA and behavioral symptoms in schizophrenia. Design: Gut microbiota, SCFA, and IA biomarkers were compared between schizophrenic patients and healthy controls. The roles of SCFA in schizophrenia-related IA were analyzed in cultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and a mouse model of schizophrenia. The effects of SCFAs on schizophrenia-related phenotypes were analyzed in both human and mouse. Results: Both microbial-derived SCFA and SCFA-producing bacteria were elevated in the guts of schizophrenic patients, and this increased SCFA production in gut was associated with IA in schizophrenia. The microbiome signature underpinning schizophrenia-related IA includes increased diversity and increased SCFA-producing bacteria and inflammation-associated bacteria. The impact of SCFAs on immune responses of cultured PBMC depend on the diagnosis and IA status of donors. Small-molecule serum filtrates from immune-activated schizophrenic patients increased the inflammatory response of PBMCs from healthy volunteers, which can be enhanced and attenuated by SCFAs supplementation and inhibition of SCFA signaling, respectively. Chronically elevated SCFAs in adolescence induced neuroinflammation and schizophrenia-like behaviors in adult mice. Moreover, chronically elevated SCFAs in adult mice prenatally exposed to IA potentiated their expression of schizophrenia-like behaviors. Conclusion: microbiota-derived SCFAs are important mediators of dysregulated gut-brain axis and participant in pathogenesis via enhance IA in schizophrenia. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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