Maternal Supplementation with N-Acetylcysteine Modulates the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis in Offspring of the Poly I:C Rat Model of Schizophrenia

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The microbiota-gut-brain axis is a complex interconnected system altered in schizophrenia. The antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been proposed as an adjunctive therapy to antipsychotics in clinical trials, but its role in the microbiota-gut-brain axis has not been sufficiently explored. We aimed to describe the effect of NAC administration during pregnancy on the gut-brain axis in the offspring from the maternal immune stimulation (MIS) animal model of schizophrenia. Pregnant Wistar rats were treated with PolyI:C/Saline. Six groups of animals were studied according to the study factors: phenotype (Saline, MIS) and treatment (no NAC, NAC 7 days, NAC 21 days). Offspring were subjected to the novel object recognition test and were scanned using MRI. Caecum contents were used for metagenomics 16S rRNA sequencing. NAC treatment prevented hippocampal volume reduction and long-term memory deficits in MIS-offspring. In addition, MIS-animals showed lower bacterial richness, which was prevented by NAC. Moreover, NAC7/NAC21 treatments resulted in a reduction of proinflammatory taxons in MIS-animals and an increase in taxa known to produce anti-inflammatory metabolites. Early approaches, like this one, with anti-inflammatory/anti-oxidative compounds, especially in neurodevelopmental disorders with an inflammatory/oxidative basis, may be useful in modulating bacterial microbiota, hippocampal size, as well as hippocampal-based memory impairments.
Poly I:C, Schizophrenia, Microbiota-gut-brain axis, Inflammation, Oxidative stress
Bibliographic citation
Antioxidants 2023, 12(4): 970, (18 p.).