Methods: Using fecal microbiota transplantation, we exchanged the intestinal microbiota of young (3 months), old (18 months), and aged (24 months) mice. Whole metagenomic shotgun sequencing and metabolomics were used to develop a custom analysis workflow, to analyze the changes in gut microbiota composition and metabolic potential. Effects of age and microbiota transfer on the gut barrier, retina, and brain were assessed using protein assays, immunohistology, and behavioral testing.
Results: We show that microbiota composition profiles and key species enriched in young or aged mice are successfully transferred by FMT between young and aged mice and that FMT modulates resulting metabolic pathway profiles. The transfer of aged donor microbiota into young mice accelerates age-associated central nervous system (CNS) inflammation, retinal inflammation, and cytokine signaling and promotes loss of key functional protein in the eye, effects which are coincident with increased intestinal barrier permeability. Conversely, these detrimental effects can be reversed by the transfer of young donor microbiota.
Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that the aging gut microbiota drives detrimental changes in the gut–brain and gut–retina axes suggesting that microbial modulation may be of therapeutic benefit in preventing inflammation-related tissue decline in later life.
- Fecal microbiota transplantation
- Gut–brain axis
- Leaky gut