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The Enteric Nervous System Constrains Intestinal Microbiota

This study by Rolig et al. assesses the role played by the enteric nervous system (ENS) in maintaining a balanced intestinal microbial community and ensuring intestinal health. The authors use zebrafish bearing a mutation in the sox10 gene; like human patients with Hirschsprung disease, who also carry sox10 mutations, these fish lack a functioning ENS. The authors found that some fish without an ENS develop high levels of inflammation, whereas other mutants have normal intestines. Bacterial profiling showed that the intestines of inflamed individuals have an overabundance of pro-inflammatory bacterial lineages, lack anti-inflammatory bacterial lineages, and are able to transmit inflammation to individuals with a normally functioning ENS. The image shows the difference in food transit times between the wild-type fish (top) and sox10 mutant fish (bottom). Fish were given food containing green fluorescent dye, then switched to food containing red fluorescent dye, and then visualized the following morning day. The images show that the fish that lack an ENS have failed to clear the green-stained food.

Image Credit: pbio.2000689