Social interaction-induced activation of RNA splicing in the amygdala of microbiome-deficient mice

Journal: eLife

Published: 2018-05-29

DOI: 10.7554/elife.33070

Affiliations: 4

Authors: 10

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Research Highlight

Bacteria buddies improve the social life of mice

© Life On White/Stockbyte/Getty

© Life On White/Stockbyte/Getty

Mice raised without microbes are less sociable than their germy companions.

There is mounting evidence that the microbiome, the bounty of bacteria that lives in all animals, controls its host’s behaviour, but how and where this occurs within the brain is uncertain. 

Researchers from University College Cork compared gene activity in the amygdala, one of the brain’s emotion processing hubs, of germ-free mice, to that of mice with a microbiome, before and during a sociability test that revealed impaired sociability in germ-free mice. 

The team observed excessive gene activity in the amygdala of germ-free mice before the test, and an increase in splicing — whereby cells produce many different proteins from a single gene — during the test. This suggests that microbes help moderate social behaviour via gene activity in the amygdala.

Pinpointing how the microbiome affects brain development and social behaviour could improve our understanding of how neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism, arise.

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  1. eLife 7, e33070 (2018). doi: 10.7554/eLife.33070
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University College Cork (UCC), Ireland 1