Published on Fri Jul 16 2021

The gut microbiota of environmentally enriched mice regulates visual cortical plasticity

Lupori, L., Cornuti, S., Mazziotti, R. M., Borghi, E., Ottaviano, E., Sagona, G., Pizzorusso, T., Tognini, P.

Exposing animals to an enriched environment (EE) has dramatic effects on brain structure, function and plasticity. The poorly known "EE derived signals" mediating the EE effects are thought to be generated within the central nervous system.

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Abstract

Exposing animals to an enriched environment (EE) has dramatic effects on brain structure, function and plasticity. The poorly known "EE derived signals" mediating the EE effects are thought to be generated within the central nervous system. Here, we shift the focus to the body periphery, revealing that gut microbiota signals are crucial for EE-driven plasticity. Developmental analysis of intestinal bacteria composition in EE mice revealed striking differences from standard condition (ST) animals and enhanced levels of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). Depleting the EE mice gut microbiota with an antibiotic cocktail decreased SCFA and prevented EE induction of adult ocular dominance (OD) plasticity, spine dynamics and microglia rearrangement. SCFA treatment in ST mice mimicked the EE induction of adult OD plasticity and morphological microglial rearrangement. Remarkably, transferring the microbiota of EE mice to ST recipients activated adult OD plasticity. Thus, taken together our data suggest that experience-dependent changes in gut microbiota regulate brain plasticity.