Intestinal Fungal Dysbiosis Is Associated With Visceral Hypersensitivity in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Rats

Gastroenterology. 2017 Oct;153(4):1026-1039. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.06.004. Epub 2017 Jun 15.


Background & aims: Visceral hypersensitivity is one feature of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Bacterial dysbiosis might be involved in the activation of nociceptive sensory pathways, but there have been few studies of the role of the mycobiome (the fungal microbiome) in the development of IBS. We analyzed intestinal mycobiomes of patients with IBS and a rat model of visceral hypersensitivity.

Methods: We used internal transcribed spacer 1-based metabarcoding to compare fecal mycobiomes of 18 healthy volunteers with those of 39 patients with IBS (with visceral hypersensitivity or normal levels of sensitivity). We also compared the mycobiomes of Long-Evans rats separated from their mothers (hypersensitive) with non-handled (normally sensitive) rats. We investigated whether fungi can cause visceral hypersensitivity using rats exposed to fungicide (fluconazole and nystatin). The functional relevance of the gut mycobiome was confirmed in fecal transplantation experiments: adult maternally separated rats were subjected to water avoidance stress (to induce visceral hypersensitivity), then given fungicide and donor cecum content via oral gavage. Other rats subjected to water avoidance stress were given soluble β-glucans, which antagonize C-type lectin domain family 7 member A (CLEC7A or DECTIN1) signaling via spleen-associated tyrosine kinase (SYK), a SYK inhibitor to reduce visceral hypersensitivity, or vehicle (control). The sensitivity of mast cells to fungi was tested with mesenteric windows (ex vivo) and the human mast cell line HMC-1.

Results: α diversity (Shannon index) and mycobiome signature (stability selection) of both groups of IBS patients differed from healthy volunteers, and the mycobiome signature of hypersensitive patients differed from that of normally sensitive patients. We observed mycobiome dysbiosis in rats that had been separated from their mothers compared with non-handled rats. Administration of fungicide to hypersensitive rats reduced their visceral hypersensitivity to normal levels of sensitivity. Administration of cecal mycobiomes from rats that had been separated from their mothers (but not non-handled mycobiome) restored hypersensitivity to distension. Administration of soluble β-glucans or a SYK inhibitor reduced visceral hypersensitivity, compared with controls. Particulate β-glucan (a DECTIN-1 agonist) induced mast cell degranulation in mesenteric windows and HMC-1 cells responded to fungal antigens by release of histamine.

Conclusions: In an analysis of patients with IBS and controls, we associated fungal dysbiosis with IBS. In studies of rats, we found fungi to promote visceral hypersensitivity, which could be reduced by administration of fungicides, soluble β-glucans, or a SYK inhibitor. The intestinal fungi might therefore be manipulated for treatment of IBS-related visceral hypersensitivity.

Keywords: Dectin-1; Immune Response; Mycobiota; Yeast.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / microbiology*
  • Abdominal Pain / physiopathology
  • Abdominal Pain / prevention & control
  • Abdominal Pain / psychology
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology
  • Anxiety, Separation / psychology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Degranulation / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dysbiosis
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplantation
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Fungi / drug effects
  • Fungi / growth & development*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hyperalgesia / microbiology*
  • Hyperalgesia / physiopathology
  • Hyperalgesia / prevention & control
  • Hyperalgesia / psychology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / innervation
  • Intestines / microbiology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / microbiology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology
  • Male
  • Mast Cells / drug effects
  • Mast Cells / metabolism
  • Maternal Deprivation
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Perception
  • Pain Threshold
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Syk Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Syk Kinase / metabolism
  • beta-Glucans / pharmacology


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • beta-Glucans
  • Syk Kinase
  • Syk protein, rat