Sex differences in stroke outcome correspond to rapid and severe changes in gut permeability in adult Sprague-Dawley rats. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Sex differences in experimental stroke outcomes are well documented, such that adult males have a greater infarct volume, increased stroke-induced mortality, and more severe sensory-motor impairment. Based on recent evidence that the gut is an early responder to stroke, the present study tested the hypothesis that sex differences in stroke severity will be accompanied by rapid and greater permeability of the gut-blood barrier and gut dysbiosis in males as compared to females. METHOD: Male and female Sprague-Dawley rats (5-7months of age) were subject to endothelin (ET)-1-induced middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAo). Sensory-motor tests were conducted pre- and 2 days after MCAo. Gut permeability was assessed in serum samples using biomarkers of gut permeability as well as functional assays using size-graded dextrans. Histological analysis of the gut was performed with H&E staining, periodic acid-Schiff for mucus, and immunohistochemistry for the tight junction protein, ZO-1. Fecal samples obtained pre- and post-stroke were analyzed for bacterial taxa and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). RESULTS: After stroke, males displayed greater mortality, worse sensory-motor deficit, and higher serum levels of proinflammatory cytokines IL-17A, MCP-1, and IL-5 as compared to females. MCAo-induced gut permeability was rapid and severe in males as indicated by dextran extravasation from the gut to the blood in the hyperacute (< 2h) and early acute (2 days) phase of stroke. This was accompanied by dysmorphology of the gut villi and dysregulation of the tight junction protein ZO-1 in the acute phase. Fecal 16s sequencing showed no differences in bacterial diversity in the acute phase of stroke. Predictive modeling indicated that markers of gut permeability were associated with acute sensory-motor impairment and infarct volume. CONCLUSIONS: These data show that extensive leakiness of the gut barrier is associated with severe post-stroke disability and suggest that reinforcing this barrier may improve stroke outcomes.

published proceedings

  • Biol Sex Differ

altmetric score

  • 5.35

author list (cited authors)

  • El-Hakim, Y., Mani, K. K., Eldouh, A., Pandey, S., Grimaldo, M. T., Dabney, A., Pilla, R., & Sohrabji, F.

citation count

  • 21

publication date

  • January 2021