Background. Depression and major depressive disorder affect 25% of the population. First line treatment utilizing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have met with limited success due to well-recognized negative side effects which include weight gain or loss. This inability to control unwanted side effects often result in patients stopping their antidepressant medications. The mechanisms underlying the failure of SSRIs are incompletely understood.
Methods. Male CF-1 mice (5 weeks of age, N D 10 per group) were per orally administered fluoxetine (20 mg per kg body weight) or diluent daily for 29 days. During this time fecal specimens were collected at three defined time points (0, 15 and 29 days). At the conclusion of the 29-day dosing regimen, animals were subjected to two behavioral assessments. For bacterial identification of the microbiota, 16S rRNA gene sequencing was performed on 60 fecal specimens (three specimens per mouse time course, N D20 mice) using Illumina MiSeq. Analysis of community sequence data was done using mothur and LEfSe bioinformatic software packages.
Results. Daily per oral administration of fluoxetine for 29 days to male mice resulted in a significant, time dependent, alteration in microbial communities accompanying changes in body weight. The calculated species richness and diversity indicators of the murine fecal microbial communities were inconsistent and not significantly different between the groups. Among the phylotypes decreased in abundance due to fluoxetine administration were Lactobacillus johnsonii and Bacteroidales S24-7 which belong to phyla associated with regulation of body mass. The observed changes in body weight due to fluoxetine administration mimicked the dramatic shifts in weight gain/loss that has been observed in humans. Further, at the conclusion of the 29-day dosing regimen fluoxetine-dosed animals evidenced a mild anxiogenic-like behavior.
Discussion. We report that the most widely used antidepressant, fluoxetine, which is an SSRI-type drug, results in the selective depletion of gut microbiota, specifically the Lactobacilli which are involved in the regulation of body weight. Concomitantly, fluoxetine administration increases the abundance of phylotypes related to dysbiosis. Since Lactobacilli have been previously shown to possess a known biogenic amine transporter that regulates the uptake of fluoxetine, it is proposed that a microbial endocrinology-based mechanistic pathway is responsible for the ability of SSRIs to selectively negatively impact beneficial microbiota. The results of this study therefore suggest that the negative clinical side effects due to fluoxetine administration may be due to alterations in gut microbiota. Further, the data also suggests that supplementation of bacterial genera directly affected by fluoxetine administration may prove useful in ameliorating some of the well-known side effects of chronic fluoxetine administration such as weight alterations.
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