Machado Joseph disease severity is linked with gut microbiota alterations in transgenic mice

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Emerging evidence suggests the presence of bidirectional interactions between the central nervous system and gut microbiota that may contribute to the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases. However, the potential role of gut microbes in forms of spinocerebellar ataxia, such as the fatal neurodegenerative disease Machado Joseph disease (MJD), remains unexplored. Here, we examined whether gut microbiota alterations may be an early disease phenotype of MJD. We profiled the gut microbiota of male and female transgenic MJD mice (CMVMJD135) expressing human ATXN3 with expanded CAG repeats (133–143 CAG) at pre-symptomatic, symptomatic and well-established stages of the disease (7, 11 and 15 weeks of age, respectively). We compared these profiles with the gut microbiota of male and female wild-type (WT) littermate control mice at same ages. Correlation network analyses were employed to explore the relevance of microbiota changes to disease progression. The results demontrated distinct sex-dependent effects in disease development whereby male MJD mice displayed earlier motor impairments than female MJD mice. The gut microbiota community structure and composition also demonstrated sex-specific differences between MJD and WT mice. In both male and female MJD mice, the shifts in the microbiota were present by 7 weeks, before the onset of any symptoms. These pre-symptomatic microbial changes correlated with the severity of neurological impairments present at later stages of the disease. Previous efforts towards developing treatments for MJD have failed to yield meaningful outcomes. Our study reports a novel relationship between the gut microbiota and MJD development and severity. Elucidating how gut microbes are involved in MJD pathogenesis may offer new and efficacious treatment strategies for this currently untreatable disease.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106051
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Early online date21 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Gut dysbiosis
  • Gut microbiota
  • Polyglutamine repeat
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia
  • Trinucleotide repeat disease


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