Microbiota-immune alterations in adolescents following early life adversity: A proof of concept study

Brie M. Reid, Rachael Horne, Bonny Donzella, Jake C. Szamosi, Christopher L. Coe, Jane A. Foster, Megan R. Gunnar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Early adverse care has long-term impacts on physical and mental health. The influence of rearing conditions on the infant's gut microbiota and its relationship with developmental health has become more evident. The microbiome is essential for normal growth and metabolism, and the signaling from the gut to the brain may underlie individual differences in resilience later in life. Microbial diversity and composition were determined using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing in fecal samples from 17 adolescents adopted internationally from orphanages into the United States and 18 adolescents reared in birth families who had similar educational and income levels. Analyses focused on diversity of the microbial community structure and differences in the abundance of specific bacterial taxa. Blood samples were used to immunophenotype the numbers of several T-cell subsets and cytomegalovirus (CMV) seropositivity. Negative binomial regression analysis revealed several operational taxonomic units that were significantly different based on early rearing conditions and CMV seropositivity. There were significant associations between the relative abundance of certain taxa, the percentages of T-cell subsets in circulation, and CMV seropositivity. These findings demonstrate a possible link between the gut microbiota and associations with immune alterations initiated by early life adversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)851-863
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Issue number5
Early online dateNov 29 2020
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to express our gratitude to the families who make this research possible. Thanks are also due to the recruiting and collection team: Colleen Doyle, Lea Neumann, Heather Taylor, Tori Simenec, Aurora Wiseman, and Anna Parenteau, and the phlebotomy team at the UM Clinical and Translational Science Institute. This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [R21 HD086312] to MRG and CLC. Additional support for the immunophenotyping was provided by the Special BD LSR Fortessa Shared Instrumentation Grant 1S100OD018202‐01 and the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center Support Grant P30 CA014520. This material is based upon work also supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF Grant No. 00039202, awarded to BMR), the PEO Scholar Award (awarded to BMR), and the University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Award (awarded to BMR). Funding for this study was provided by an operating grant from the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI—JAF). Graduate stipend support (to RH) was provided by Canadian Institute of Health Research. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH or NSF.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Wiley Periodicals LLC


  • adolescent
  • early adversity
  • early experience
  • immune system
  • microbiome


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