The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) recognized Dr. Gary Wang as a fellow given his achieved professional excellence and significant service to the profession.
Dr. Wang received a NIH Exploratory/Developmental Research Grant Award (R21)
Dr. Wang’s research on the role of gut bacterial tryptophanase in anxiety disorders:
Anxiety disorders are the one of the most common neuropsychiatric conditions worldwide. In recent years, there is increasing evidence that our gut bacteria may play an important role in regulating anxiety behaviors. However, how our gut bacteria produce these behavioral effects is not clear. Scientists now know that normal development of many aspects of brain function including mood and anxiety depends on the presence of normal gut bacteria. Several laboratories have shown that mice that are born germ-free are “less anxious” compared to conventional mice. In addition, germ-free mice that are colonized with gut bacteria from conventional mice showed an increase in anxiety behavior compared to germ-free mice that remain germ-free. Therefore, while our current understanding indicates a link between gut bacteria and anxiety, we still don’t understand how gut bacteria influence behavior and which bacteria are important.
This study investigates how gut bacteria control anxiety behavior using a mouse model. Our hypothesis is that bacteria in the gut can control anxiety behavior through a pathway in the gut that involves an essential amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan is normally absorbed in the gut and is important for the brain to make neurochemicals that control mood and anxiety. Some gut bacteria produce an enzyme called tryptophanase, which breaks down tryptophan to other metabolites and decreases the amount of tryptophan that can be absorbed in the gut. Therefore, bacterial tryptophanase may influence the brain and anxiety behavior by controlling the amount of tryptophan that can be absorbed to influence behavior. The rationale for this project is that if we understand how gut bacteria control anxiety behavior through regulating blood and brain tryptophan levels, it may be possible to develop new treatment ap
proaches for anxiety by changing the composition of our gut bacteria. We will study whether tryptophanase enzyme from gut bacteria can modify anxiety behavior and whether tryptophan metabolism by gut bacteria tryptophanase is involved in anxiety. This project will increase our understanding of the role of gut bacteria in anxiety behavior through changes in tryptophan metabolism in the gut, with the ultimate goal of developing new therapies for anxiety disorders by modulating our gut bacteria.