Ovarian progesterone suppresses depression and anxiety-like behaviors by increasing the Lactobacillus population of gut microbiota in ovariectomized mice

Neurosci Res. 2021 Jul;168:76-82. doi: 10.1016/j.neures.2019.04.005. Epub 2019 Apr 22.


Depression and anxiety, which are severe symptoms during menopause, are caused by ceased ovarian activity and declined serum progesterone levels. Studies have demonstrated that gut microbiota can regulate brain function and change the microbiota composition during the perimenopause period. This study investigated whether progesterone affects depressant and anxious behaviors via gut microbiota. In ovariectomized (OVX) mice, treatment with progesterone improved depressive and anxious behaviors, and gut microbiota composition was significantly changed. In particular, increased Lactobacillus spp. were observed in these mice. Reduction of microbiota by antibiotic treatment abolished the effect of progesterone on depression and anxiety. In addition, administration of Lactobacillus (L.) reuteri that was increased by progesterone also reduced the depressant behavior in OVX mice, and BDNF gene expression was elevated by progesterone treatment and L. reuteri administration in the hippocampus. Moreover, we found that progesterone stimulated the growth of L. reuteri in vitro. In summary, our findings indicate that progesterone reduces depression and anxiety through changes in gut microbiota composition, particularly by increasing the Lactobacillus spp. population.

Keywords: Depression and anxiety; Gut microbiota; Lactobacillus reuteri; Progesterone.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Lactobacillus
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Progesterone


  • Progesterone