Neurotoxicity Research

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 353–359 | Cite as

Systemic Treatment with the Enteric Bacterial Fermentation Product, Propionic Acid, Reduces Acoustic Startle Response Magnitude in Rats in a Dose-Dependent Fashion: Contribution to a Rodent Model of ASD

  • Corey L. Kamen
  • Danna L. Zevy
  • Jordan M. Ward
  • Indra R. Bishnoi
  • Martin Kavaliers
  • Klaus-Peter OssenkoppEmail author


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, characterized by cognitive and sensorimotor deficits, among others. Hypo-sensitivity and hyper-sensitivity to different stimuli within the same sensory modality, a prominent symptom of ASD, can be assessed by acoustic startle response (ASR) and prepulse inhibition (PPI). Propionic acid (PPA) is a short-chain fatty acid and a by-product of the human gut microbiome. Rodents treated with PPA has been found to produce ASD-related behavioral abnormalities, gastrointestinal discomfort, and conditioned aversions. The present study examined ASR and PPI in adult male rats treated systemically (intraperitoneal injections) with two different doses of PPA. A single injection of PPA produced significant dose-dependent reductions in startle response magnitude relative to control rats. However, PPA-treated rats did not show significant sensorimotor gating abnormalities relative to controls, based on the PPI measures. These findings add to the growing body of evidence supporting the validity of the PPA rodent model of ASD.


Propionic acid Startle response Sensorimotor gating Short-chain fatty acid Rat 



This research was supported by Discovery grants and Research Tools and Instruments grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) awarded to M. Kavaliers and K.-P. Ossenkopp.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures were approved by the Western University Animal Care Committee and were in accordance with the guidelines of the Canadian Council of Animal Care.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Corey L. Kamen
    • 1
  • Danna L. Zevy
    • 2
  • Jordan M. Ward
    • 2
  • Indra R. Bishnoi
    • 1
  • Martin Kavaliers
    • 1
    • 2
  • Klaus-Peter Ossenkopp
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWestern UniversityLondonCanada
  2. 2.Western UniversityLondonCanada

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