Background: Recurrent abdominal pain is a common and costly health-care problem attributed, in part, to visceral hypersensitivity. Increasing evidence suggests that gut bacteria contribute to abdominal pain perception by modulating the microbiome-gut-brain axis. However, specific microbial signals remain poorly defined. γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a principal inhibitory neurotransmitter and a key regulator of abdominal and central pain perception from peripheral afferent neurons. Although gut bacteria are reported to produce GABA, it is not known whether the microbial-derived neurotransmitter modulates abdominal pain.
Methods: To investigate the potential analgesic effects of microbial GABA, we performed daily oral administration of a specific Bifidobacterium strain (B. dentiumATCC 27678) in a rat fecal retention model of visceral hypersensitivity, and subsequently evaluated pain responses.
Key results: We demonstrate that commensal Bifidobacterium dentium produces GABA via enzymatic decarboxylation of glutamate by GadB. Daily oral administration of this specific Bifidobacterium (but not a gadB deficient) strain modulated sensory neuron activity in a rat fecal retention model of visceral hypersensitivity.
Conclusions & inferences: The functional significance of microbial-derived GABA was demonstrated by gadB-dependent desensitization of colonic afferents in a murine model of visceral hypersensitivity. Visceral pain modulation represents another potential health benefit attributed to bifidobacteria and other GABA-producing species of the intestinal microbiome. Targeting GABAergic signals along this microbiome-gut-brain axis represents a new approach for the treatment of abdominal pain.
Keywords: Bifidobacterium; GABA; brain gut axis; microbiome; neuromodulation.
© 2016 The Authors. Neurogastroenterology & Motility Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.