Gut dysbiosis is closely connected with the outbreak of psychiatric disorders with colitis. Bifidobacteria-fermented red ginseng (fRG) increases the absorption of ginsenoside Rd and protopanxatriol into the blood in volunteers and mice. fRG and Rd alleviates 2,4,6-trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid-induced colitis in mice. Therefore, to understand the gut microbiota-mediated mechanism of fRG against anxiety/depression, we examined the effects of red ginseng (RG), fRG, ginsenoside Rd, and protopanaxatriol on the occurrence of anxiety/depression, colitis, and gut dysbiosis in mice. Mice with anxiety/depression were prepared by being exposed to two stressors, immobilization stress (IS) or Escherichia coli (EC). Treatment with RG and fRG significantly mitigated the stress-induced anxiety/depression-like behaviors in elevated plus maze, light-dark transition, forced swimming (FST), and tail suspension tasks (TST) and reduced corticosterone levels in the blood. Their treatments also suppressed the stress-induced NF-κB activation and NF-κB+/Iba1+ cell population in the hippocampus, while the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression and BDNF+/NeuN+ cell population were increased. Furthermore, treatment with RG or fRG suppressed the stress-induced colitis: they suppressed myeloperoxidase activity, NF-κB activation, and NF-κB+/CD11c+ cell population in the colon. In particular, fRG suppressed the EC-induced depression-like behaviors in FST and TST and colitis more strongly than RG. fRG treatment also significantly alleviated the EC-induced NF-κB+/Iba1+ cell population and EC-suppressed BDNF+/NeuN+ cell population in the hippocampus more strongly than RG. RG and fRG alleviated EC-induced gut dysbiosis: they increased Bacteroidetes population and decreased Proteobacteria population. Rd and protopanaxatriol also alleviated EC-induced anxiety/depression and colitis. In conclusion, fRG and its constituents Rd and protopanaxatriol mitigated anxiety/depression and colitis by regulating NF-κB-mediated BDNF expression and gut dysbiosis.
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