Traumatic brain injury (TBI) increases gastrointestinal morbidity and associated mortality. Clinical and preclinical studies implicate gut dysbiosis as a consequence of TBI and an amplifier of brain damage. However, little is known about the association of gut dysbiosis with structural and functional changes of the gastrointestinal tract after an isolated TBI. To assess gastrointestinal dysfunction, mice received a controlled cortical impact or sham brain injury and intestinal permeability was assessed at 4 h, 8 h, 1 d, and 3 d after injury by oral administration of 4 kDa FITC Dextran prior to euthanasia. Quantification of serum fluorescence revealed an acute, short-lived increase in permeability 4 h after TBI. Despite transient intestinal dysfunction, no overt morphological changes were evident in the ileum or colon across timepoints from 4 h to 4 wks post-injury. To elucidate the timeline of microbiome changes after TBI, 16 s gene sequencing was performed on DNA extracted from fecal samples collected prior to and over the first month after TBI. Differential abundance analysis revealed that the phylum Verrucomicrobiota was increased at 1, 2, and 3 d after TBI. The Verrucomicrobiota species was identified by qPCR as Akkermansia muciniphila, an obligate anaerobe that resides in the intestinal mucus bilayer and produces short chain fatty acids (e.g. butyrate) utilized by intestinal epithelial cells. We postulated that TBI promotes intestinal changes favorable for the bloom of A. muciniphila. Consistent with this premise, the relative area of mucus-producing goblet cells in the medial colon was significantly increased at 1 d after injury, while colon hypoxia was significantly increased at 3 d. Our findings reveal acute gastrointestinal functional changes coupled with an increase of beneficial bacteria suggesting a potential compensatory response to systemic stress after TBI.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2990
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

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© The Author(s) 2024.

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