Maternal separation (MS) has been developed as a model for inducing stress and depression in studies using rodents. The concept of the gut-brain axis suggests that gut health is essential for brain health. Here, we present the effects of administration of a probiotic, Lactobacillus paracasei PS23 (PS23), to MS mice against psychological traits including anxiety and depression. The administration of live and heat-killed PS23 cells showed positive behavioural effects on MS animals, where exploratory tendencies and mobility were increased in behavioural tests, indicating reduced anxiety and depression compared to the negative control mice (P<0.05). Mice administered with both live and heat-killed PS23 cells also showed lower serum corticosterone levels accompanied by higher serum anti-inflammatory interleukin 10 (IL-10) levels, compared to MS separated mice (P<0.05), indicating a stress-elicited response affiliated with increased immunomodulatory properties. Assessment of neurotransmitters in the brain hippocampal region revealed that PS23 affected the concentrations of dopaminergic metabolites differently than the control, suggesting that PS23 may have improved MS-induced stress levels via neurotransmitter pathways, such as dopamine or other mechanisms not addressed in the current study. Our study illustrates the potential of a probiotic in reversing abnormalities induced by early life stress and could be an alternative for brain health along the gut-brain axis.
Keywords: dopamine; early life stress; immunomodulatory.