NYMC Faculty Publications

Effect of Acetate Supplementation on Traumatic Stress-Induced Behavioral Impairments in Male Rats

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Neurobiology of Stress

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Second Department

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Gut microbiota and their metabolites have emerged as key players in the pathogenesis of neuropsychiatric disorders. Recently, we demonstrated that animals susceptible to Single Prolonged Stress (SPS) have an overall pro-inflammatory gut microbiota and significantly lower cecal acetate levels than SPS-resilient rats, which correlated inversely with the anxiety index. Here, we investigated whether the microbial metabolite, acetate, could ameliorate SPS-triggered impairments. Male rats were randomly divided into unstressed controls or groups exposed to SPS. The groups received continued oral supplementation of either 150 mM of sodium acetate or 150 mM of sodium chloride-matched water. Two weeks after SPS, a battery of behavioral tests was performed, and the animals were euthanized the following day. While not affecting the unstressed controls, acetate supplementation reduced the impact of SPS on body weight gain and ameliorated SPS-induced anxiety-like behavior and the impairments in social interaction, but not depressive-like behavior. These changes were accompanied by several beneficial effects of acetate supplementation. Acetate alleviated the stress response by reducing urinary epinephrine levels, induced epigenetic modification by decreasing histone deacetylase (HDAC2) gene expression, inhibited neuroinflammation by reducing the density of Iba1+ cells and the gene expression of IL-1ß in the hippocampus, and increased serum β-hydroxybutyrate levels. The findings reveal a causal relationship between oral acetate treatment and mitigation of several SPS-induced behavioral impairments. Mechanistically, it impacted neuronal and metabolic pathways including changes in stress response, epigenetic modifications, neuroinflammation and showed novel link to ketone body production. The study demonstrates the preventive-therapeutic potential of acetate supplementation to alleviate adverse responses to traumatic stress.