NYMC Faculty Publications

Differences in Gut Microbiota Associated With Stress Resilience and Susceptibility to Single Prolonged Stress in Female Rodents

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Neurobiology of Stress

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Second Department

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Exposure to traumatic stress is a major risk factor for the development of neuropsychiatric disorders in a subpopulation of individuals, whereas others remain resilient. The determinants of resilience and susceptibility remain unclear. Here, we aimed to characterize the microbial, immunological, and molecular differences between stress-susceptible and stress-resilient female rats before and after exposure to a traumatic experience. Animals were randomly divided into unstressed controls (n = 10) and experimental groups (n = 16) exposed to Single Prolonged Stress (SPS), an animal model of PTSD. Fourteen days later, all rats underwent a battery of behavioral tests and were sacrificed the following day to collect different organs. Stool samples were collected before and after SPS. Behavioral analyses revealed divergent responses to SPS. The SPS treated animals were further subdivided into SPS-resilient (SPS-R) and SPS-susceptible (SPS-S) subgroups. Comparative analysis of fecal 16S sequencing before and after SPS exposure indicated significant differences in the gut microbial composition, functionality, and metabolites of the SPS-R and SPS-S subgroups. In line with the observed distinct behavioral phenotypes, the SPS-S subgroup displayed higher blood-brain barrier permeability and neuroinflammation relative to the SPS-R and/or controls. These results indicate, for the first time, pre-existing and trauma-induced differences in the gut microbial composition and functionality of female rats that relate to their ability to cope with traumatic stress. Further characterization of these factors will be crucial for understanding susceptibility and fostering resilience, especially in females, who are more likely than males to develop mood disorders.