Obesity, besides being a problem of metabolic dysfunction, constitutes a risk factor for psychological disorders. Experimental models of diet-induced obesity have revealed that obese animals are prone to anxious and depressive-like behaviors. The present study aimed to evaluate whether Bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum CECT 7765 could reverse the neurobehavioral consequences of obesity in a high-fat diet (HFD) fed mouse model via regulation of the gut-brain axis. Adult male wild-type C57BL-6 mice were fed a standard diet or HFD, supplemented with either placebo or the bifidobacterial strain for 13 weeks. Behavioral tests were performed, and immune and neuroendocrine parameters were analyzed including leptin and corticosterone and their receptors, Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2) and neurotransmitters. We found that obese mice showed anhedonia (p < 0.050) indicative of a depressive-like behavior and an exaggerated hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA)-mediated stress response to acute physical (p < 0.001) and social stress (p < 0.050), but these alterations were ameliorated by B. pseudocatenulatum CECT 7765 (p < 0.050). These behavioral effects were parallel to reductions of the obesity-associated hyperleptinemia (p < 0.001) and restoration of leptin signaling (p < 0.050), along with fat mass loss (p < 0.010). B. pseudocatenulatum CECT 7765 administration also led to restoration of the obesity-induced reductions in adrenaline in the hypothalamus (p < 0.010), involved in the hypothalamic control of energy balance. Furthermore, the bifidobacterial strain reduced the obesity-induced upregulation of TLR2 protein or gene expression in the intestine (p < 0.010) and the hippocampus (p < 0.050) and restored the alterations of 5-HT levels in the hippocampus (p < 0.050), which could contribute to attenuating the obesity-associated depressive-like behavior (p < 0.050). In summary, the results indicate that B. pseudocatenulatum CECT 7765 could play a role in depressive behavior comorbid with obesity via regulation of endocrine and immune mediators of the gut-brain axis.
Keywords: Bifidobacterium; Depression; Microbiota; Obesity; Serotonin; Stress; TLR2.