Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a relapsing-remitting disorder characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Anxiety symptoms are commonly observed in patients with IBD, but the mechanistic link between IBD and anxiety remains elusive. Here, we sought to characterize gut-to-brain signaling and brain circuitry responsible for the pathological expression of anxiety-like behaviors in male dextran sulfate sodium–induced (DSS-induced) experimental colitis mice. We found that DSS-treated mice displayed increased anxiety-like behaviors, which were prevented by bilateral GI vagal afferent ablation. The locus coeruleus (LC) is a relay center connecting the nucleus tractus solitarius to the basolateral amygdala (BLA) in controlling anxiety-like behaviors. Chemogenetic silencing of noradrenergic LC projections to the BLA reduced anxiety-like behaviors in DSS-treated mice. This work expands our understanding of the neural mechanisms by which IBD leads to comorbid anxiety and emphasizes a critical role of gastric vagal afferent signaling in gut-to-brain regulation of emotional states.
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