Induction of anxiety-like behavior in mice during the initial stages of infection with the agent of murine colonic hyperplasia Citrobacter rodentium

Physiol Behav. 2006 Oct 30;89(3):350-7. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.06.019. Epub 2006 Aug 2.


Symptoms of anxiety frequently occur concomitant to the development and persistence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in patients. In the present study, we utilized an animal model of IBD, infection with Citrobacter rodentium, to determine whether the infection per se can drive anxiety-like behavior. Nine-week-old CF-1 male mice were challenged orally with either saline or C. rodentium. Early in the infective process (7-8 h later), mice were tested on a hole-board open field apparatus for anxiety-like behavior measurement. Immediately following behavioral testing, plasma samples were obtained for immune cytokine analysis and colons were excised for histological analysis. In additional animals, vagal ganglia were removed and processed for c-Fos protein detection. Challenge with C. rodentium significantly increased anxiety-like behavior as evidenced by avoidance of the center area and increased risk assessment behavior. Plasma levels of the cytokines IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha and IL-12 were not different. However vagal sensory ganglia from C. rodentium-treated animals evinced significantly more c-Fos protein-positive neurons, consistent with vagal afferent transmission of C. rodentium-related signals from gut to brain. Histological examination of the colon indicated a lack of overt inflammation at the 8 h post-challenge time point, indicating that the differences in behavior were unlikely to follow from inflammation-related stress. The results of the present study demonstrate that infection with C. rodentium can induce anxiety-like symptoms that are likely mediated via vagal sensory neurons.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / microbiology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Citrobacter rodentium*
  • Colitis / complications*
  • Colitis / microbiology
  • Colon / microbiology
  • Colon / pathology
  • Enterobacteriaceae Infections / complications*
  • Enterobacteriaceae Infections / microbiology
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos