Gut microbiota indole-3-propionic acid mediates neuroprotective effect of probiotic consumption in healthy elderly: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial and in vitro study

The beneficial effects of probiotic consumption on age-related decline in cerebral function have been previously reported in the literature; however, the mechanistic link between gut and brain interactions has not yet been fully elucidated. Therefore, this study aimed to identify the role of gut microbiota-derived metabolites in gut-brain interactions via blood metabolomic profiling analysis in clinical trials and in vitro mechanistic studies.


A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial was conducted in 63 healthy elderly individuals (≥65 years of age). Participants were administered either placebo (placebo group, N = 31) or probiotic capsules (Bifidobacterium bifidum BGN4 and Bifidobacterium longum BORI; probiotics group, N = 32) for 12 weeks. Global and targeted metabolomic profiling analyses of their blood samples were then performed using 1H nuclear magnetic resonance and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry methods, both at baseline and at the end of the trial. Gut microbial analysis was conducted using the 16S ribosomal ribonucleic acid gene sequencing method. Subsequently, microglial BV2 cells were treated in vitro with indole-3-propionic acid (IPA) following lipopolysaccharide stimulation, and neuronal SH-SY5Y cells were treated with conditioned media from the BV2 cells. Finally, the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in BV2 cells and neurotrophins in SH-SY5Y cells were quantified using a real-time polymerase chain reaction or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.


The metabolomic profiling analyses showed that probiotic consumption significantly altered the levels of metabolites involved in tryptophan metabolism (P < 0.01). Among these metabolites, gut microbiota-produced IPA had a 1.91-fold increase in the probiotics group (P < 0.05) and showed a significant relation to gut bacterial profiles (P < 0.01). Elevated IPA levels were also positively associated with the level of serum brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) in the probiotics group (r = 0.28, P < 0.05), showing an inverse trend compared to the placebo group. In addition, in vitro treatment with IPA (5 μM) significantly reduced the concentration of proinflammatory TNF-α in activated microglia (P < 0.05), and neuronal cells cultured with conditioned media from IPA-treated microglia showed a significant increase in BDNF and nerve growth factor production (P < 0.05).


These results show that gut microbiota-produced IPA plays a role in protecting the microglia from inflammation, thus promoting neuronal function. Therefore, this suggests that IPA is a significant mediator linking the interaction between the gut and the brain in the elderly with probiotic supplementation.



Published: 3 may 2023

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Clinical nutrition; DOI: