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Neurotox Res. 2019 Feb;35(2):353-359. doi: 10.1007/s12640-018-9960-9. Epub 2018 Sep 27.

Systemic Treatment with the Enteric Bacterial Fermentation Product, Propionic Acid, Reduces Acoustic Startle Response Magnitude in Rats in a Dose-Dependent Fashion: Contribution to a Rodent Model of ASD.

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Department of Psychology, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.
Western University, London, Canada.
Department of Psychology, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.
Western University, London, Canada.


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, characterized by cognitive and sensorimotor deficits, among others. Hypo-sensitivity and hyper-sensitivity to different stimuli within the same sensory modality, a prominent symptom of ASD, can be assessed by acoustic startle response (ASR) and prepulse inhibition (PPI). Propionic acid (PPA) is a short-chain fatty acid and a by-product of the human gut microbiome. Rodents treated with PPA has been found to produce ASD-related behavioral abnormalities, gastrointestinal discomfort, and conditioned aversions. The present study examined ASR and PPI in adult male rats treated systemically (intraperitoneal injections) with two different doses of PPA. A single injection of PPA produced significant dose-dependent reductions in startle response magnitude relative to control rats. However, PPA-treated rats did not show significant sensorimotor gating abnormalities relative to controls, based on the PPI measures. These findings add to the growing body of evidence supporting the validity of the PPA rodent model of ASD.


Propionic acid; Rat; Sensorimotor gating; Short-chain fatty acid; Startle response

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