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Magnesium deficiency has been associated with anxiety in humans, and rodent studies have demonstrated the gut microbiota to impact behaviour.
We investigated the impact of 6 weeks of dietary magnesium deficiency on gut microbiota composition and anxiety-like behaviour and whether there was a link between the two. A total of 20 C57BL/6 mice, fed either a standard diet or a magnesium-deficient diet for 6 weeks, were tested using the light-dark box anxiety test. Gut microbiota composition was analysed by denaturation gradient gel electrophoresis.
We demonstrated that the gut microbiota composition correlated significantly with the behaviour of dietary unchallenged mice. A magnesium-deficient diet altered the gut microbiota, and was associated with altered anxiety-like behaviour, measured by decreased latency to enter the light box.
Magnesium deficiency altered behavior. The duration of magnesium deficiency is suggested to influence behaviour in the evaluated test.
Gut microbiota (GM) has previously been associated with alterations in rodent behaviour, and since the GM is affected by the diet, the composition of the diet may be an important factor contributing to behavioural changes. Interestingly, a magnesium restricted diet has been shown to induce anxiety and depressive-like behaviour in humans and rodents, and it could be suggested that magnesium deficiency may mediate the effects through an altered GM.
The present study therefore fed C57BL/6 mice with a standard diet or a magnesium deficient diet (MgD) for 6 weeks, followed by behavioural testing in the forced swim test (FST) to evaluate depressive-like behaviour. An intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test (GTT) was performed 2 day after the FST to assess metabolic alterations. Neuroinflammatory markers were analysed from hippocampus. GM composition was analysed and correlated to the behaviour and hippocampal markers.
It was found that mice exposed to MgD for 6 weeks were more immobile than control mice in the FST, suggesting an increased depressive-like behaviour. No significant difference was detected in the GTT. GM composition correlated positively with the behaviour of undisturbed C57BL/6 mice, feeding MgD diet altered the microbial composition. The altered GM correlated positively to the hippocampal interleukin-6.
In conclusion, we hypothesise that imbalances of the microbiota–gut–brain axis induced by consuming a MgD diet, contributes to the development of depressive-like behaviour.
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