BDNF expression in the hippocampus of maternally separated rats: Does Bifidobacterium breve 6330 alter BDNF levels?

E. O'Sullivan, E. Barrett, S. Grenham, P. Fitzgerald, C. Stanton, R. P. Ross, E. M.M. Quigley, J. F. Cryan, T. G. Dinan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is of interest because of its putative role in stress and psychiatric disorders. Maternal separation is used as an animal model of early-life stress and of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Animals exposed to the paradigm show altered gut function together with heightened levels of arousal and corticosterone. Some probiotic organisms have been shown to be of benefit in IBS and influence the brain-gut axis. Our objective was to investigate the effects of maternal separation on BDNF under basal conditions and in response to the probiotic Bifidobacterium breve 6330. The study implemented the maternal separation model which we have previously described. Polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridisation were performed to measure the effect of maternal separation on both BDNF total variants and BDNF splice variant (exon) IV in the hippocampus. Maternally separated and non-separated rats were treated with B. breve 6330, to investigate the effect of this probiotic on BDNF total variant and BDNF exon IV expression. Maternal separation increased BDNF total variants (P<0.01), whilst having no effect on BDNF exon IV. B. breve 6330 increased BDNF total variants (P<0.01), and decreased BDNF splice variant IV, in non-separated rats (P<0.01). B. breve 6330 did not alter BDNF levels in the maternally separated rats. Maternal separation caused a marked increase in BDNF in the hippocampus. While B. breve 6330 influenced BDNF in normal animals, it had no significant effect on BDNF in those which were maternally separated. We have demonstrated that an orally administered probiotic can influence hippocampal BDNF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-207
Number of pages9
JournalBeneficial Microbes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Brain-gut axis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Neurotrophin
  • Probiotic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Microbiology


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