Major stress has systemic effects on the body that can have adverse consequences for physical and mental health. However, the molecular basis of these damaging effects remains incompletely understood. Here we use a longitudinal approach to characterise the acute systemic impact of major psychological stress in a pig model. We perform untargeted metabolomics on non-invasively obtained saliva samples from pigs before and 24 h after transfer to the novel physical and social environment of a slaughterhouse. The main molecular changes occurring include decreases in amino acids, B-vitamins, and amino acid-derived metabolites synthesized in B-vitamin-dependent reactions, as well as yet-unidentified metabolite features. Decreased levels of several of the identified metabolites are implicated in the pathology of human psychological disorders and neurodegenerative disease, suggesting a possible neuroprotective function. Our results provide a fingerprint of the acute effect of psychological stress on the metabolome and suggest candidate biomarkers with potential roles in stress-related disorders.
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