• brain-gut axis;
  • colorectal distension;
  • probiotics;
  • stress

Abstract  Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), frequently associated with psychological distress, is characterized by hypersensitivity to gut wall distension. Some probiotics are able to alleviate IBS symptoms and reduce visceromotor response to mechanical stimuli in animals. Moreover, we have previously shown that Lactobacillus farciminis treatment abolished the hyperalgesia to colorectal distension (CRD) induced by acute stress. The aims of the present study were to determine whether (i) stress-induced visceral hyperalgesia modifies the expression of Fos, a marker of general neuronal activation, induced by CRD, (ii) this activation can be modulated by L. farciminis treatment. Female rats were treated by L. farciminis and CRD was performed after partial restraint stress (PRS) or sham-PRS. The expression of Fos protein was measured by immunohistochemistry. After CRD or PRS, Fos expression was increased in spinal cord section (S1), nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS), paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus, and in the medial nucleus of the amygdala (MeA). The combination of both stimuli, PRS and CRD, markedly increased this Fos overexpression in the sacral spinal cord section, PVN and MeA, but not in NTS. By contrast, a pretreatment with L. farciminis significantly reduced the number of Fos positive cells in these area. This study shows that PRS enhances Fos protein expression induced by CRD at the spinal and supraspinal levels in rats. Lactobacillus farciminis treatment inhibited this enhancing effect, suggesting that the antinociceptive effect of this probiotic strain results from a decrease of the stress-induced activation/sensitization of sensory neurons at the spinal and supraspinal level.