A functional reciprocity between the gut microbiome and vagal nerve activity has been suggested, however, human studies addressing this phenomenon are limited.
Twenty-four-hour cardiac vagal activity (CVA) was assessed from 73 female participants (aged 24.5 ± 4.3 years). Additionally, stool samples were subjected to 16SrRNA gene analysis (V1-V2). Quantitative Insights Into Microbial Ecology (QIIME) was used to analyse microbiome data. Additionally, inflammatory parameters (such as CRP and IL-6) were derived from serum samples.
Daytime CVA correlated significantly with gut microbiota diversity (r sp = 0.254, p = 0.030), CRP (r sp = -0.348, p = 0.003), and IL-6 (r sp = -0.320, p = 0.006). When the group was divided at the median of 24 h CVA (Mdn = 1.322), the following features were more abundant in the high CVA group: Clostridia (Linear discriminant analysis effect size (LDA) = 4.195, p = 0.029), Clostridiales (LDA = 4.195, p = 0.029), Lachnospira (LDA = 3.489, p = 0.004), Ruminococcaceae (LDA = 4.073, p = 0.010), Faecalibacterium (LDA = 3.982, p = 0.042), Lactobacillales (LDA = 3.317, p = 0.029), Bacilli (LDA = 3.294, p = 0.0350), Streptococcaceae (LDA = 3.353, p = 0.006), Streptococcus (LDA = 3.332, p = 0.011). Based on Dirichlet multinomial mixtures two enterotypes could be detected, which differed significantly in CVA, age, BMI, CRP, IL-6, and diversity.
As an indicator of gut-brain communication, gut microbiome analysis could be extended by measurements of CVA to enhance our understanding of signalling via microbiota-gut-brain-axis and its alterations through psychobiotics.