Gut Bacteria Affects Myelin Content and Induces MS-Like Depression in Mice, Study Reports

Gut Bacteria Affects Myelin Content and Induces MS-Like Depression in Mice, Study Reports

Researchers at the Center of Excellence for Myelin Repair, a part of Mount Sinai, reported that gut bacteria produce compounds that were seen to affect the myelin content in mice and cause social avoidance behaviors. Study results indicated that targeting gut bacteria, or the gut metabolites, might help in treating neuropsychiatric disorders or complications, such as those caused by diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).

The study, published in journal eLife, is titled “Microbiota-driven transcriptional changes in prefrontal cortex override genetic differences in social behavior.

Previous studies from the same research team described a reduction of myelin and myelinated fibers in preclinical models of depression, postulating a biological explanation for the high rate of depression in patients with MS.

Now, the researchers identified bacteria-derived gut metabolites that can affect the content of myelin in the brains of mice and induce social avoidance behaviors, a depressive symptom.

In their experiments, the investigators transferred fecal bacteria from the gut of mice with depression to mice displaying no depressive symptoms. The microbiota transfer induced social avoidance behaviors, and altered the expression of myelin-related genes and myelin content in the brains of the recipient mice.

“Our findings will help in the understanding of microbiota in modulating multiple sclerosis,” Patrizia Casaccia, MD, PhD, professor of Neuroscience, Genetics and Genomics, and Neurology, and chief of the Center of Excellence for Myelin Repair, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said in a recent news release. “The study provides a proof of principle that gut metabolites have the ability to affect myelin content irrespective of the genetic makeup of mice. We are hopeful these metabolites can be targeted for potential future therapies.”

To explain the mechanism of gut-brain communication, the investigators identified communities of bacteria linked with increased levels of cresol, an organic compound capable of passing the blood-brain barrier.

When the precursors of cells that form myelin were exposed to cresol, they lost their capacity to produce myelin, indicating that a gut-derived metabolite had an impact in the formation of myelin in the brain.

More studies are necessary to translate the results from this study into humans, and to identify bacterial communities with the potential to encourage the production of myelin.

MS is a demyelinating disease in which the insulating covers (myelin) of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a range of signs and symptoms, including physical, mental and, in a number of patients, psychiatric problems.


  1. eddie says:

    very Interesting article…thank you Daniela

    I have noticed ,from a while back,that increasing intake of probiotics, the “natural form” such as saurkraut helped with the “mental and psychiatric ” challenges of MS.
    We are , at the end of the day, really billions of “multiple colonies” of bacteria.

  2. huri says:

    As an MS patient watching socalled MS research since 30 years I often wonder how many millions of creatures who have a central nervous system and therefore can feel pain are tortured crippled and finally killed(called neutrally “animal or mice model”) in the name of “research” in order to arrive at some insignificant conclusion that cannot be replicated in human beings? Not in my name please

    • Susan Stockburger says:

      I am living with MS but was told years ago by a healer in Switzerland that my cure to MS was in the gut, though our language barrier kept me from understanding more.

  3. fady81 says:

    I agree with you Susan, I am from Lebanon and have RRMS, an alternative medicine doctor assured me that it’s the gut + no smoking of course.

      • Susan says:

        Yes. Eat a whole food plant-based diet. Fruit, vegetables (some raw, some cooked), whole grains, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), and a few nuts but no oil and no dairy products. That will do it!

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