Antidepressants affect gut microbiota and Ruminococcus flavefaciens is able to abolish their effects on depressive-like behavior

Transl Psychiatry. 2019 Apr 9;9(1):133. doi: 10.1038/s41398-019-0466-x.


Accumulating evidence demonstrates that the gut microbiota affects brain function and behavior, including depressive behavior. Antidepressants are the main drugs used for treatment of depression. We hypothesized that antidepressant treatment could modify gut microbiota which can partially mediate their antidepressant effects. Mice were chronically treated with one of five antidepressants (fluoxetine, escitalopram, venlafaxine, duloxetine or desipramine), and gut microbiota was analyzed, using 16s rRNA gene sequencing. After characterization of differences in the microbiota, chosen bacterial species were supplemented to vehicle and antidepressant-treated mice, and depressive-like behavior was assessed to determine bacterial effects. RNA-seq analysis was performed to determine effects of bacterial treatment in the brain. Antidepressants reduced richness and increased beta diversity of gut bacteria, compared to controls. At the genus level, antidepressants reduced abundances of Ruminococcus, Adlercreutzia, and an unclassified Alphaproteobacteria. To examine implications of the dysregulated bacteria, we chose one of antidepressants (duloxetine) and investigated if its antidepressive effects can be attenuated by simultaneous treatment with Ruminococcus flavefaciens or Adlercreutzia equolifaciens. Supplementation with R. flavefaciens diminished duloxetine-induced decrease in depressive-like behavior, while A. equolifaciens had no such effect. R. flavefaciens treatment induced changes in cortical gene expression, up-regulating genes involved in mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation, while down-regulating genes involved in neuronal plasticity. Our results demonstrate that various types of antidepressants alter gut microbiota composition, and further implicate a role for R. flavefaciens in alleviating depressive-like behavior. Moreover, R. flavefaciens affects gene networks in the brain, suggesting a mechanism for microbial regulation of antidepressant treatment efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depression / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Ruminococcus / drug effects
  • Ruminococcus / physiology*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S