Antidepressant treatment with fluoxetine during pregnancy and lactation modulates the gut microbiome and metabolome in a rat model relevant to depression

Anouschka S. Ramsteijn, Eldin Jašarević, Danielle J. Houwing, Tracy L. Bale, Jocelien D.A. Olivier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Up to 10% of women use selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants during pregnancy and postpartum. Recent evidence suggests that SSRIs are capable of altering the gut microbiota. However, the interaction between maternal depression and SSRI use on bacterial community composition and the availability of microbiota-derived metabolites during pregnancy and lactation is not clear. We studied this using a rat model relevant to depression, where adult females with a genetic vulnerability and stressed as pups show depressive-like behaviors. Throughout pregnancy and lactation, females received the SSRI fluoxetine or vehicle. High-resolution 16S ribosomal RNA marker gene sequencing and targeted metabolomic analysis were used to assess the fecal microbiome and metabolite availability, respectively. Not surprisingly, we found that pregnancy and lactation segregate in terms of fecal microbiome diversity and composition, accompanied by changes in metabolite availability. However, we also showed that fluoxetine treatment altered important features of this transition from pregnancy to lactation most clearly in previously stressed dams, with lower fecal amino acid concentrations. Amino acid concentrations, in turn, correlated negatively with the relative abundance of bacterial taxa such as Prevotella and Bacteroides. Our study demonstrates an important relationship between antidepressant use during the perinatal period and maternal fecal metabolite availability in a rat model relevant to depression, possibly through parallel changes in the gut microbiome. Since microbial metabolites contribute to homeostasis and development, insults to the maternal microbiome by SSRIs might have health consequences for mother and offspring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-753
Number of pages19
JournalGut Microbes
Issue number4
Early online date23 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2020


  • 16S rRNA
  • depression
  • fecal metabolome
  • Fecal microbiome
  • fluoxetine
  • lactation
  • pregnancy
  • rat
  • serotonin transporter
  • SSRI antidepressants


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