The microbiome-gut-brain (MGB) axis is a bi-directional route of communication that exists between the brain and the microbes that reside in the gut. The MGB axis is becoming of increasing importance as significant alterations in the gut microbiota are now linked to numerous neurological conditions, however, little is currently known about the microbiome derived mediators of communication. Here we used mass spectrometry imaging (MSI), a label free imaging technique, to identify bacterial products that cross the blood brain barrier in specific pathogen free (SPF) mice. We identified two bacterial molecules abundant in white matter regions of the murine that were absent in the brain and gut in germ free (GF) mice. We have identified the primary gut microbial producers of these metabolites to be members of the Lachnospiraceae family. Both molecules were found to be structurally similar to carnitine and localise with carnitine in the SPF mouse brain. Using a primary murine cell culture model of the central nervous system white matter we show that these molecules are capable of significantly impairing mitochondrial basal respiration. Given their systemic presence in the mouse and their presence in human biological samples, these metabolites may have significant implications for diseases associated with mitochondrial dysfunction and an altered gut microbiota. These results are the first to describe a direct molecular inter-kingdom communication between prokaryotes and the mammalian brain that can facilitate functional inhibition in mammalian brain cells.


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