Gut Microbiota Regulates Depression-Like Behavior in Rats Through the Neuroendocrine-Immune-Mitochondrial Pathway.

Kristen Sparrow • April 22, 2020

Though this journal article isn’t directly related to acupuncture per se, the neurendocrine-immune-mitochondrial pathway is quite similar.  The depression model in rats is pretty awful. Making them swim.  yeeks.
2020 Mar 31;16:859-869. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S243551. eCollection 2020.

Gut Microbiota Regulates Depression-Like Behavior in Rats Through the Neuroendocrine-Immune-Mitochondrial Pathway.



Gut microbiota affects various physiological functions in the host and has crucial effects on the nervous system. There is increasing evidence of a correlation between gut microbiota and depression; however, the mechanisms underlying the regulation of depression-like behavior by gut microbiota remain unclear. In this study, we assessed the regulatory mechanism of gut microbiota on depression-like behavior in rats.


We transplanted fecal microbiota obtained from patients with depression and healthy individuals into germ-free (GF) rats (n=18) through fecal microbiota transplantation technology. Next, we assessed the affective behavior in the rats using the forced swimming test and a sucrose preference test. We used enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to determine the hippocampal levels of 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), dopamine (DA), and noradrenaline (NE) and the serum levels of corticosterone (CORT), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interferon-γ (IFN-γ), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-1 (IL-4), and interleukin-1 (IL-10). The mitochondrial morphology of small intestinal epithelial cells was observed through transmission electron microscopy.


Rats that received fecal microbiota from patients with depression (depression microbiota) exhibited depression-like behavior. They presented decreased levels of hippocampal neurotransmitters, serum CORT levels, and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels, as well as increased ACTH, CRH, and serum levels of multiple pro-inflammatory cytokines. Observation of the mitochondria ultrastructure showed damaged mitochondria in the intestinal epithelial cells, significant endoplasmic reticulum expansion, and border aggregation of nuclear chromatin.


Our findings suggested that the depression-like behaviors induced by the depression microbiota through the neuroendocrine-immune-mitochondrial pathway, which were associated with neuroendocrine disorders, inflammatory responses, and mitochondrial damage.


HPA axis; depression; gut microbiota; immune; mitochondrial; neurotransmitter