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PLoS One. 2017 Apr 25;12(4):e0175577. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0175577. eCollection 2017.

Maternal obese-type gut microbiota differentially impact cognition, anxiety and compulsive behavior in male and female offspring in mice.

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Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University System, Baton Rouge, LA, United States of America.


Maternal obesity is known to predispose offspring to metabolic and neurodevelopmental abnormalities. While the mechanisms underlying these phenomena are unclear, high fat diets dramatically alter intestinal microbiota, and gut microbiota can impact physiological function. To determine if maternal diet-induced gut dysbiosis can disrupt offspring neurobehavioral function, we transplanted high fat diet- (HFD) or control low fat diet-associated (CD) gut microbiota to conventionally-housed female mice. Recipient mice were then bred and the behavioral phenotype of male and female offspring was tracked. While maternal behavior was unaffected, neonatal offspring from HFD dams vocalized less upon maternal separation than pups from CD dams. Furthermore, weaned male offspring from HFD dams had significant and selective disruptions in exploratory, cognitive, and stereotypical/compulsive behavior compared to male offspring from CD dams; while female offspring from HFD dams had increases in body weight and adiposity. 16S metagenomic analyses confirmed establishment of divergent microbiota in CD and HFD dams, with alterations in diversity and taxonomic distribution throughout pregnancy and lactation. Likewise, significant alterations in gut microbial diversity and distribution were noted in offspring from HFD dams compared to CD dams, and in males compared to females. Regression analyses of behavioral performance against differentially represented taxa suggest that decreased representation of specific members of the Firmicutes phylum predict behavioral decline in male offspring. Collectively, these data establish that high fat diet-induced maternal dysbiosis is sufficient to disrupt behavioral function in murine offspring in a sex-specific manner. Thus these data reinforce the essential link between maternal diet and neurologic programming in offspring and suggest that intestinal dysbiosis could link unhealthy modern diets to the increased prevalence of neurodevelopmental and childhood disorders.

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