Investigating the Effects of Antidepressants on Intestinal Bacteria

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Investigating the Effects of Antidepressants on Intestinal Bacteria

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Introduction: The gut-brain axis (GBA) involves bidirectional communication between the gastrointestinal tract and brain, which contains many species of bacteria that play an important role in this communication. Major depressive disorder is often treated with antidepressant medications (ADMs) that pass through the gastrointestinal tract; however, the possible adverse effects of ADMs on the gut microbiome are not well characterized. Methods: This project investigates the impact of three selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, sertraline, fluoxetine, citalopram; one norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor, bupropion; and one tetracyclic antidepressant, mirtazapine, on the growth of eight species of gut bacteria, Bacteroides fragilis, Bifidobacterium longum, Bacteroides uniformis, Collinsella aerofaciens, Prevotella copri, Escherichia coli, Akkermansia muciniphila, and Lactobacillus plantarum. Bacteria were treated with various concentrations of each ADM to determine potential impact on growth. We calculated the concentration of drug needed to inhibit growth by 50% (IC50) using spectrophotometry. Results Several ADMs inhibited gut bacterial growth. At 50% bacterial growth inhibition, the most prominent was sertraline (28.742 μM), followed by bupropion (43.976 μM), then fluoxetine (76.449 μM). Citalopram (244.738 μM) and mirtazapine (294.316 μM) exhibited far less inhibition. Discussion These findings suggest ADMs have antibiotic effects that disturb the microbiome resulting in potential consequences for microbiota-GBA interactions. Building on these results, future experimentation will measure uptake and metabolism of ADMs by exposing bacteria to each drug longitudinally. Metabolites will be characterized using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Conclusion Given the profound impact of the gut microbiome on the gut-brain axis, these data provide novel insights into potential mechanisms by which ADMs could have unintended consequences on the gut that may perpetuate, instead of treat, mood disorders thus the microbiome should be further investigated in relation to ADMs.


This abstract and poster presentation were presented on 4/10/24 at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in Long Beach, CA.

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This research was supported by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) and the Department of Surgery at the University of Minnesota.

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Lebakken, Sophia; Basting, Christopher M; Bailey, Melisa; Schroeder, Ty; Broedlow, Courtney A; Guerrero, Candace; Hemmila, Charlotte; Klatt, Nichole R. (2024). Investigating the Effects of Antidepressants on Intestinal Bacteria. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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