Lactobacillus acidophilus modulates intestinal pain and induces opioid and cannabinoid receptors


Abdominal pain is common in the general population and, in patients with irritable bowel syndrome, is attributed to visceral hypersensitivity. We found that oral administration of specific Lactobacillus strains induced the expression of μ-opioid and cannabinoid receptors in intestinal epithelial cells, and mediated analgesic functions in the gut—similar to the effects of morphine. These results suggest that the microbiology of the intestinal tract influences our visceral perception, and suggest new approaches for the treament of abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome.

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Figure 1: Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM induces the expression of MOR1 and CB2 in epithelial cells.
Figure 2: Functional role of L. acidophilus NCFM–induced analgesic receptors.


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We thank the Institut Universitaire de France and Danisco Cultures for their support.

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C.R. conducted and performed the in vitro and in vivo experiments. X.T., L.D., C.D. and E.M. contributed to the in vitro and in vivo experiments. M.C. was involved in the Rela−/− experiment. A.G. and D.A. performed colorectal distension in rodents. N.B. and C.N. were involved in the bacteriological experiment. K.G. performed the histological experiments. D.C. was involved in the research proposals and in the coordination of the studies within Danisco research centers. A.C.O. quantified NCFM DNA in the feces using PCR. G.L. validated the taxonomical analysis of the different bacterial species used in this study and performed measurements of Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM products. J.-F.C. contributed to data discussion and analysis. P.D. designed and supervised the study, and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Pierre Desreumaux.

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Competing interests

P.D. has received funding for research and clinical studies on probiotics and prebiotics from Danisco, Sanofi-Aventis, Syndifrais, Roquette and Lesaffre, and has also received consultation fees from Danisco, Danone and Roquette. In addition, P.D. is an inventor of patents filed by Danisco.

C.N. has received funding for research studies from Danone and Roquette.

D.C., A.O. and G.L. are employed by Danisco, which produces and markets the NCFM strain.

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Rousseaux, C., Thuru, X., Gelot, A. et al. Lactobacillus acidophilus modulates intestinal pain and induces opioid and cannabinoid receptors. Nat Med 13, 35–37 (2007).

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