Gut Microbiome: Role in Mammalian Mental Health During Space Flight

Positive mood related gut microbiota in a long term closed environment a multiomics study based on the Lunar Palace 365 experiment

Graphic summary of the main findings. 

Psychological health risk is one of the most severe and complex risks in manned deep-space exploration and long-term closed environments. Recently, with the in-depth research of the microbiota–gut–brain axis, gut microbiota has been considered a new approach to maintain and improve psychological health. However, the correlation between gut microbiota and psychological changes inside long-term closed environments is still poorly understood. Herein, we used the “Lunar Palace 365” mission, a 1-year-long isolation study in the Lunar Palace 1 (a closed manned Bioregenerative Life Support System facility with excellent performance), to investigate the correlation between gut microbiota and psychological changes, in order to find some new potential psychobiotics to maintain and improve the psychological health of crew members.

In their study, published in Microbiome Journal, Hao et al. from Beihang University reported some altered gut microbiota that were associated with psychological changes in the long-term closed environment. Four potential psychobiotics (Bacteroides uniformisRoseburia inulinivoransEubacterium rectale, and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii) were identified.

On the basis of metagenomic, metaproteomic, and metabolomic analyses, the four potential psychobiotics improved mood mainly through three pathways related to nervous system functions:

  • first, by fermenting dietary fibers, they may produce short-chain fatty acids, such as butyric and propionic acids;
  • second, they may regulate amino acid metabolism pathways of aspartic acid, glutamic acid, tryptophan, etc. (e.g., converting glutamic acid to gamma–aminobutyric acid; converting tryptophan to serotonin, kynurenic acid, or tryptamine);
  • and third, they may regulate other pathways, such as taurine and cortisol metabolism.

Furthermore, the results of animal experiments confirmed the positive regulatory effect and mechanism of these potential psychobiotics on mood.

These observations reveal that gut microbiota contributed to a robust effect on the maintenance and improvement of mental health in a long-term closed environment.

Hao et al.'s findings represent a key step towards a better understanding the role of the gut microbiome in mammalian mental health during space flight and provide a basis for future efforts to develop microbiota-based countermeasures that mitigate risks to crew mental health during future long-term human space expeditions on the moon or Mars.

This study also provides an essential reference for future applications of psychobiotics to neuropsychiatric treatments.

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Article DOI.

Image credit: Hao et al. Microbiome (2023)

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