Microbial colonization history modulates anxiety-like and complex social behavior in mice

Itsuka Kamimura, Ryou Kaneko, Hidetoshi Morita, Kazutaka Mogi, Takefumi Kikusui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Microbiome composition has a pivotal role in neurobehavioral development. However, there is limited information about the role of the microbiome in sociability of mice in complex social contexts. Germ-free (GF) mice were reared in a microbiota-free environment until postnatal day 21 and then transferred to a room containing specific pathogen free (SPF) mice. At 9 weeks old, group social behaviors were measured for three GF mice and three SPF mice unfamiliar to each other. GF mice spent less time in the center area of the arena and there were longer inter-individual distances compared with SPF mice. GF mice also had decreased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and increased ΔFosB mRNA in the prefrontal cortex compared to SPF mice. There were differences in the gut microbiome composition between GF and SPF mice; however, if cohabitating after weaning, then their microbiome composition became equivalent and group differences in behavior and BDNF and ΔFosB mRNA expression disappeared. These results demonstrate that the bacterial community can modulate neural systems that are involved in sociability and anxiety during the developmental period and suggest that sociability and anxiety can be shaped depending on the microbiome environment through interaction with conspecifics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-75
Number of pages12
JournalNeuroscience Research
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Commensal bacteria
  • Germ-free mouse
  • Gut microbiota
  • Social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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