Altered gut-brain communication can contribute to intestinal dysfunctions in the intestinal bowel syndrome. The neuroprotective high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet (KD) modulates the levels of different neurotransmitters and neurotrophins. The aim was to evaluate the effects of KD on levels of 5-HT, the receptors 5-HT3B and 5-HT4, the 5-HT transporter SERT, the neurotrophin BDNF, and its receptor TrkB in the colon and brain of a rat model of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Samples from Wistar rats exposed to maternal deprivation as newborns and then fed with a standard diet (IBS-Std) or KD (IBS-KD) for ten weeks were analyzed. As controls, unexposed rats (Ctrl-Std and Ctrl-KD) were studied. IBS-Std rats had a disordered enteric serotoninergic signaling shown by increased mucosal 5-HT content and reduced SERT, 5-HT3B, and 5-HT4 levels compared to controls. In the brain, these animals showed up-regulation of the BDNF receptor TrkB as a counteracting response to the stress-induced reduction of the neurotrophin. KD showed a dual effect in improving the altered 5-HT and BDNF systems. It down-regulated the increased mucosal 5-HT without affecting transporter and receptor levels. KD improved brain BDNF levels and established negative feedback, leading to a compensatory downregulation of TrkB to maintain a physiological steady state.
Keywords: 5-HT; BDNF; animal model; irritable bowel syndrome; ketogenic diet.