Gut-derived metabolites mediating cognitive development in 5-year-old children: Early-life transplant in mice has lasting effects throughout adulthood

Maria Angela, Guzzardi, Federica, La Rosa, Federico, Granziera, Daniele, Panetta, Mercedes, Pardo-Tendero, Monica, Barone, Silvia, Turroni, Francesco, Faita, Claudia, Kusmic, Patrizia, Brigidi, Daniel, Monleon, Patricia, Iozzo

Brain, Behavior, and Immunity |

The gut microbiota has been causally linked to cognitive development. We aimed to identify metabolites mediating its effect on cognitive development, and foods or nutrients related to most promising metabolites. Faeces from 5-year-old children (DORIAN-PISAC cohort, including 90 general population families with infants, 42/48 females/males, born in 2011–2014) were transplanted (FMT) into C57BL/6 germ-free mice. Children and recipient mice were stratified by cognitive phenotype, or based on protective metabolites. Food frequency questionnaires were obtained in children. Cognitive measurements in mice included five Y-maze tests until 23 weeks post-FMT, and (at 23 weeks) PET-CT for brain metabolism and radiodensity, and ultrasound-based carotid vascular indices. Children (faeces, urine) and mice (faeces, plasma) metabolome was measured by 1H NMR spectroscopy, and the faecal microbiota was profiled in mice by 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. Cognitive scores of children and recipient mice were correlated. FMT-dependent modifications of brain metabolism were observed. Mice receiving FMT from high-cognitive or protective metabolite-enriched children developed superior cognitive-behavioural performance. A panel of metabolites, namely xanthine, hypoxanthine, formate, mannose, tyrosine, phenylalanine, glutamine, was found to mediate the gut-cognitive axis in donor children and recipient mice. Vascular indices partially explained the metabolite-to-phenotype relationships. Children's consumption of legumes, whole-milk yogurt and eggs, and intake of iron, zinc and vitamin D appeared to support protective gut metabolites. Overall, metabolites involved in inflammation, purine metabolism and neurotransmitter synthesis mediate the gut-cognitive axis, and holds promise for screening. The related dietary and nutritional findings offer leads to microbiota-targeted interventions for cognitive protection, with long-lasting effects.