Impact of prebiotics on metabolic and behavioral alterations in a mouse model of metabolic syndrome

Brain Behav Immun. 2017 Aug:64:33-49. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2016.12.022. Epub 2016 Dec 24.


Mounting evidence shows that the gut microbiota, an important player within the gut-brain communication axis, can affect metabolism, inflammation, brain function and behavior. Interestingly, gut microbiota composition is known to be altered in patients with metabolic syndrome (MetS), who also often display neuropsychiatric symptoms. The use of prebiotics, which beneficially alters the microbiota, may therefore be a promising way to potentially improve physical and mental health in MetS patients. This hypothesis was tested in a mouse model of MetS, namely the obese and type-2 diabetic db/db mice, which display emotional and cognitive alterations associated with changes in gut microbiota composition and hippocampal inflammation compared to their lean db/+ littermates. We assessed the impact of chronic administration (8weeks) of prebiotics (oligofructose) on both metabolic (body weight, food intake, glucose homeostasis) and behavioral (increased anxiety-like behavior and impaired spatial memory) alterations characterizing db/db mice, as well as related neurobiological correlates, with particular attention to neuroinflammatory processes. Prebiotic administration improved excessive food intake and glycemic dysregulations (glucose tolerance and insulin resistance) in db/db mice. This was accompanied by an increase of plasma anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 levels and hypothalamic mRNA expression of the anorexigenic cytokine IL-1β, whereas unbalanced mRNA expression of hypothalamic orexigenic (NPY) and anorexigenic (CART, POMC) peptides was unchanged. We also detected signs of improved blood-brain-barrier integrity in the hypothalamus of oligofructose-treated db/db mice (normalized expression of tight junction proteins ZO-1 and occludin). On the contrary, prebiotic administration did not improve behavioral alterations and associated reduction of hippocampal neurogenesis displayed by db/db mice, despite normalization of increased hippocampal IL-6 mRNA expression. Of note, we found a relationship between the effect of treatment on dentate gyrus neurons and spatial memory. These findings may prove valuable for introducing novel approaches to treat some of the comorbidities associated with MetS.

Keywords: Anxiety; Cytokines; Gut microbiota; Hippocampus; Hypothalamus; Inflammation; Metabolic syndrome; Prebiotics; Spatial memory; db/db mice.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Bifidobacterium
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Encephalitis / metabolism
  • Encephalitis / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / microbiology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Obese
  • Prebiotics / administration & dosage*
  • Spatial Memory


  • Prebiotics