Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (Medical Science)
Medical Sciences (Neuroscience and Behavioral Science)
Jane A. Foster PhD
Commensal intestinal microbiota number in the realm of 1014 organisms per gram of colonic contents. This considerable bacterial load is acquired during birth and in the early postnatal days and has a defining, extensive impact on host physiology. We now have persuasive evidence that the intestinal microbiota influence the development of the nervous system. The following body of work describes alterations in the nervous system of germ free mice – mice bred and maintained with no exposure to bacteria of any kind. Here we examine diverse measures of neural activity, ranging from stress reactivity and stress-associated behaviours, to changes in neurochemistry of brain regions mutually involved in feeding and stress, to electrophysiological measures of sensory cells in the enteric nervous system. We see that in the absence of colonizing microbiota that neural activity is considerably altered both peripherally and centrally. Specifically, germ free mice exhibit a reduction in basal anxiety-like behaviour accompanied by consistent changes in mRNA gene expression of plasticity-related genes in brain tissue, lifelong reduction in circulating plasma leptin, increases in mRNA gene expression of hypothalamic leptin receptors and neuropeptide Y, and decreased excitability in sensory neurons in the myenteric plexus of the enteric nervous system. Furthermore, while it appears that central systems responsible for stress may have an early critical window for bacterial-induced change, it would seem that the peripheral enteric nervous system retains plasticity into adulthood. This novel work provides insight into the microbial-gut-brain axis and suggests potential avenues for therapies aimed at treating the frequently comorbid gastrointestinal and psychiatric illnesses.
McVey Neufeld, Karen-Anne PhD, "Impact of Commensal Intestinal Microbiota on Nervous System Development and Function" (2012). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6728.
McMaster University Library