Pulmonary arterial hypertension-associated changes in gut pathology and microbiota

ERJ Open Res. 2020 Jul 27;6(3):00253-2019. doi: 10.1183/23120541.00253-2019. eCollection 2020 Jul.


Emerging evidence implicates an interplay among multiple organs such as brain, vasculature, gut and lung in the development of established pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). This has led us to propose that activated microglia mediated-enhanced sympathetic activation contributes to PAH pathophysiology. Since enhanced sympathetic activity is observed in human PAH and the gut is highly innervated by sympathetic nerves that regulate its physiological functions, we hypothesized that PAH would be associated with gut pathophysiology. A monocrotaline rat model of PAH was utilized to investigate the link between gut pathology and PAH. Haemodynamics, histology, immunocytochemistry and 16S RNA gene sequencing were used to assess cardiopulmonary functions, gut pathology and gut microbial communities respectively. Monocrotaline treatment caused increased right ventricular systolic pressure, haemodynamics and pathological changes associated with PAH. PAH animals also showed profound gut pathology that included increased intestinal permeability, increased muscularis layer, decreased villi length and goblet cells. These changes in gut pathology were associated with alterations in microbial communities, some unique to PAH animals. Furthermore, enhanced gut-neural communication involving the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and increased sympathetic drive were observed. In conclusion, our data show the presence of gut pathology and distinct changes in gut microbiota and increased sympathetic activity in PAH. They suggest that dysfunctional gut-brain crosstalk could be critical in PAH and considered a future therapeutic target for PAH.