Neurological disorders are commonly reported among veterans who returned from the Gulf war. Veterans who suffer from Gulf War illness (GWI) complain of continued symptom persistence that includes neurological disorders, muscle weakness, headaches, and memory loss, that developed during or shortly after the war. Our recent research showed that chemical exposure associated microbial dysbiosis accompanied by a leaky gut connected the pathologies in the intestine, liver, and brain. However, the mechanisms that caused the symptoms to persist even 30 years after the war remained elusive to investigators. In this study, we used a rodent model of GWI to investigate the persistence of microbiome alterations, resultant chronic inflammation, and its effect on neurotrophic and synaptic plasticity marker BDNF. The results showed that exposure to GW chemicals (the pesticide permethrin and prophylactic drug pyridostigmine bromide) resulted in persistent pathology characterized by the low relative abundance of the probiotic bacteria Akkermansia muciniphila in the gut, which correlated with high circulatory HMGB1 levels, blood-brain barrier dysfunction, neuroinflammation and lowered neurotrophin BDNF levels. Mechanistically, we used mice lacking the NLRP3 gene to investigate this inflammasome’s role in observed pathology. These mice had significantly decreased inflammation and a subsequent increase in BDNF in the frontal cortex. This suggests that a persistently low species abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila and associated chronic inflammation due to inflammasome activation might be playing a significant role in contributing to chronic neurological problems in GWI. A therapeutic approach with various small molecules that can target both the restoration of a healthy microbiome and decreasing inflammasome activation might have better outcomes in treating GWI symptom persistence.
- Akkermansia muciniphila
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