Limosilactobacillus reuteri ATCC 6475 metabolites upregulate the serotonin transporter in the intestinal epithelium

M. Engevik, W. Ruan, C. Visuthranukul, Z. Shi, K. A. Engevik, A. C. Engevik, R. Fultz, D. A. Schady, J. K. Spinler, J. Versalovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The serotonin transporter (SERT) readily takes up serotonin (5-HT), thereby regulating the availability of 5-HT within the intestine. In the absence of SERT, 5-HT remains in the interstitial space and has the potential to aberrantly activate the many 5-HT receptors distributed on the epithelium, immune cells and enteric neurons. Perturbation of SERT is common in many gastrointestinal disorders as well as mouse models of colitis. Select commensal microbes regulate intestinal SERT levels, but the mechanism of this regulation is poorly understood. Additionally, ethanol upregulates SERT in the brain and dendritic cells, but its effects in the intestine have never been examined. We report that the intestinal commensal microbe Limosilactobacillus (previously classified as Lactobacillus) reuteri ATCC PTA 6475 secretes 83.4 mM ethanol. Consistent with the activity of L. reuteri alcohol dehydrogenases, we found that L. reuteri tolerated various levels of ethanol. Application of L. reuteri conditioned media or exogenous ethanol to human colonic T84 cells was found to upregulate SERT at the level of mRNA. A 4-(4-(dimethylamino) phenyl)-1-methylpyridinium (APP+) uptake assay confirmed the functional activity of SERT. These findings were mirrored in mouse colonic organoids, where L. reuteri metabolites and ethanol were found to upregulate SERT at the apical membrane. Finally, in a trinitrobenzene sulphonic acid model of acute colitis, we observed that mice treated with L. reuteri maintained SERT at the colon membrane compared with mice receiving phosphate buffered saline vehicle control. These data suggest that L. reuteri metabolites, including ethanol, can upregulate SERT and may be beneficial for maintaining intestinal homeostasis with respect to serotonin signalling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-599
Number of pages17
JournalBeneficial microbes
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021


  • Lactic acid bacteria
  • Probiotics
  • Serotonin
  • Serotonin transporter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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