Publication Date

12-1-2023

Journal

Gut Microbes

Abstract

The gut is a major source of bacteria and antigens that contribute to neuroinflammation after brain injury. Colonic epithelial cells (ECs) are responsible for secreting major cellular components of the innate defense system, including antimicrobial proteins (AMP) and mucins. These cells serve as a critical regulator of gut barrier function and maintain host-microbe homeostasis. In this study, we determined post-stroke host defense responses at the colonic epithelial surface in mice. We then tested if the enhancement of these epithelial protective mechanisms is beneficial in young and aged mice after stroke. AMPs were significantly increased in the colonic ECs of young males, but not in young females after experimental stroke. In contrast, mucin-related genes were enhanced in young females and contributed to mucus formation that maintains the distance between the host and gut bacteria. Bacterial community profiling was done using universal amplification of 16S rRNA gene sequences. The sex-specific colonic epithelial defense responses after stroke in young females were reversed with ovariectomy and led to a shift from a predominately mucin response to the enhanced AMP expression seen in males after stroke. Estradiol (E2) replacement prior to stroke in aged females increased mucin gene expression in the colonic ECs. Interestingly, we found that E2 treatment reduced stroke-associated neuronal hyperactivity in the insular cortex, a brain region that interacts with visceral organs such as the gut, in parallel to an increase in the composition of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the gut microbiota. This is the first study demonstrating sex differences in host defense mechanisms in the gut after brain injury.

Keywords

Ischemic stroke, gut epithelium, gut-brain axis, sex differences, aging

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