Alleviating effect of vagus nerve cutting in Salmonella-induced gut infections and anxiety-like behavior via enhancing microbiota-derived GABA

Brain Behav Immun. 2024 Apr 23:S0889-1591(24)00382-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2024.04.034. Online ahead of print.


The vagus nerve, a pivotal link within the gut-brain axis, plays a critical role in maintaining homeostasis and mediating communication between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. It has been reported that gastrointestinal infection by Salmonella typhimurium (S. typhimurium) triggers gut inflammation and manifests as anxiety-like behaviors, yet the mechanistic involvement of the vagus nerve remains to be elucidated. In this study, we demonstrated that unilateral cervical vagotomy markedly attenuated anxiety-like behaviors induced by S. typhimurium SL1344 infection in C57BL/6 mice, as evidenced by the open field test and marble burying experiment. Furthermore, vagotomy significantly diminished neuronal activation within the nucleus of the solitary tract and amygdala, alongside mitigating aberrant glial cell activation in the hippocampus and amygdala. Additionally, vagotomy notably decreases serum endotoxin levels, counters the increase in splenic Salmonella concentration, and modulates the expression of inflammatory cytokines-including IL-6, IL-1β, and TNF-α-in both the gastrointestinal tract and brain, with a concurrent reduction in IL-22 and CXCL1 expression. This intervention also fostered the enrichment of beneficial gut microbiota, including Alistipes and Lactobacillus species, and augmented the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the gut. Administration of GABA replicated the vagotomy’s beneficial effects on reducing gut inflammation and anxiety-like behavior in infected mice. However, blockade of GABA receptors with picrotoxin abrogated the vagotomy’s protective effects against gut inflammation, without influencing its impact on anxiety-like behaviors. Collectively, these findings suggest that vagotomy exerts a protective effect against infection by promoting GABA synthesis in the colon and alleviating anxiety-like behavior. This study underscores the critical role of the vagus nerve in relaying signals of gut infection to the brain and posits that targeting the gut-brain axis may offer a novel and efficacious approach to preventing gastrointestinal infections and associated behavioral abnormalities.

PMID:38663772 | DOI:10.1016/j.bbi.2024.04.034