Colitis-Induced Microbial Perturbation Promotes Postinflammatory Visceral Hypersensitivity

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020;10(2):225-244. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmgh.2020.04.003. Epub 2020 Apr 11.


Background & aims: Despite achieving endoscopic remission, more than 20% of inflammatory bowel disease patients experience chronic abdominal pain. These patients have increased rectal transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 receptor (TRPV1) expression, a key transducer of inflammatory pain. Because inflammatory bowel disease patients in remission exhibit dysbiosis and microbial manipulation alters TRPV1 function, our goal was to examine whether microbial perturbation modulated transient receptor potential function in a mouse model.

Methods: Mice were given dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) to induce colitis and were allowed to recover. The microbiome was perturbed by using antibiotics as well as fecal microbial transplant (FMT). Visceral and somatic sensitivity were assessed by recording visceromotor responses to colorectal distention and using hot plate/automated Von Frey tests, respectively. Calcium imaging of isolated dorsal root ganglia neurons was used as an in vitro correlate of nociception. The microbiome composition was evaluated via 16S rRNA gene variable region V4 amplicon sequencing, whereas fecal short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) were assessed by using targeted mass spectrometry.

Results: Postinflammatory DSS mice developed visceral and somatic hyperalgesia. Antibiotic administration during DSS recovery induced visceral, but not somatic, hyperalgesia independent of inflammation. FMT of postinflammatory DSS stool into antibiotic-treated mice increased visceral hypersensitivity, whereas FMT of control stool reversed antibiotics' sensitizing effects. Postinflammatory mice exhibited both increased SCFA-producing species and fecal acetate/butyrate content compared with controls. Capsaicin-evoked calcium responses were increased in naive dorsal root ganglion neurons incubated with both sodium butyrate/propionate alone and with colonic supernatants derived from postinflammatory mice.

Conclusions: The microbiome plays a central role in postinflammatory visceral hypersensitivity. Microbial-derived SCFAs can sensitize nociceptive neurons and may contribute to the pathogenesis of postinflammatory visceral pain.

Keywords: Calcium Imaging; DSS Colitis; Dorsal Root Ganglion; Microbiome; Short-Chain Fatty Acids; Visceral Pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / chemically induced
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / complications*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / immunology
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / microbiology
  • Colon / drug effects
  • Colon / immunology
  • Colon / microbiology
  • Colon / pathology
  • Dextran Sulfate / administration & dosage
  • Dextran Sulfate / toxicity
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dysbiosis / immunology*
  • Dysbiosis / microbiology
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / analysis
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nociception
  • Nociceptors / immunology
  • Nociceptors / metabolism
  • TRPV Cation Channels / metabolism
  • Visceral Pain / immunology*
  • Visceral Pain / microbiology


  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • TRPV1 protein, mouse
  • Dextran Sulfate

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