Indole Acetic Acid Exerts Anti-Depressive Effects on an Animal Model of Chronic Mild Stress

Nutrients. 2022 Nov 25;14(23):5019. doi: 10.3390/nu14235019.


Indole acetic acid (IAA), an intestinal bacteria-derived tryptophan metabolite, has been detected at abnormal concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid and urine of depressed individuals. The effects of such altered IAA concentrations on mood regulation are not known. A mouse model of unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) was used to assess the effects of IAA administration (50 mg/kg). Treatment with IAA for 5 weeks attenuated depression and anxiety-like behaviours, improved hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction and increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression. IAA supplementation also enhanced the serotonin pathway in the brain and gut. UCMS caused an imbalance of microbial indole metabolites in the colon, whereas IAA treatment reversed this. However, IAA intake did not affect the concentrations of indoles in the brain. Intestinal bacteria in different sections of the gut were altered by IAA treatment, with the colon showing more changes than other segments. The gut microbiome in the colon had increased proportions of Ruminococcaceae UCG013, Ruminiclostridium 6, Prevotella, Alloprevotella and Bacteroides species, which can produce short-chain fatty acids and indole derivatives. Cumulatively, our study highlights the potential of IAA treatment to alleviate mood disorders and offers a theoretical basis for understanding the antidepressant effects of IAA.

Keywords: HPA axis; depression; gut microbiota; indole acetic acid; indole derivative; serotonin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents* / pharmacology
  • Antidepressive Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Indoleacetic Acids* / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal


  • indoleacetic acid
  • Indoleacetic Acids
  • Antidepressive Agents