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Microbial endocrinology, which is the study of neuroendocrine-based interkingdom signaling, provides a causal mechanistic framework for understanding the bi-directional crosstalk between the host and microbiome, especially as regards the effect of stress on health and disease. The importance of the cecal microbiome in avian health is well-recognized, yet little is understood regarding the mechanisms underpinning the avian host-microbiome relationship. Neuroendocrine plasticity of avian tissues that are focal points of host-microbiome interaction, such as the gut and lung, has likewise received limited attention. Avian in vivo models that enable the study of the neuroendocrine dynamic between host and microbiome are needed. As such, we utilized Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) that diverge in corticosterone response to stress to examine the relationship between stress-related neurochemical concentrations at sites of host-microbe interaction, such as the gut, and the cecal microbiome.
Our results demonstrate that birds which contrast in corticosterone response to stress show profound separation in cecal microbial community structure as well as exhibit differences in tissue neurochemical concentrations and structural morphologies of the gut. Changes in neurochemicals known to be affected by the microbiome were also identified in tissues outside of the gut, suggesting a potential relationship in birds between the cecal microbiome and overall avian physiology.
The present study provides the first evidence that the structure of the avian cecal microbial community is shaped by selection pressure on the bird for neuroendocrine response to stress. Identification of unique region-dependent neurochemical changes in the intestinal tract following stress highlights environmental stressors as potential drivers of microbial endocrinology-based mechanisms of avian host-microbiome dialogue. Together, these results demonstrate that tissue neurochemical concentrations in the avian gut may be related to the cecal microbiome and reveal the Japanese quail as a novel avian model in which to further examine the mechanisms underpinning these relationships.
Lyte, J.M., Keane, J., Eckenberger, J. et al. Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) as a novel model to study the relationship between the avian microbiome and microbial endocrinology-based host-microbe interactions. Microbiome 9, 38 (2021).