Our Microbiome May Be Looking Out for Itself
August 18, 2014 4:48 AM Subscribe
Your body is home to about 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes, collectively known as your microbiome. Naturalists first became aware of our invisible lodgers in the 1600s, but it wasn’t until the past few years that we’ve become really familiar with them. This recent research has given the microbiome a cuddly kind of fame. We’ve come to appreciate how beneficial our microbes are — breaking down our food, fighting off infections and nurturing our immune system. It’s a lovely, invisible garden we should be tending for our own well-being. But in the journal Bioessays, a team of scientists has raised a creepier possibility. Perhaps our menagerie of germs is also influencing our behavior in order to advance its own evolutionary success — giving us cravings for certain foods, for example.
Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms BioEssaysThe potential for Microbial Psychiatry previously
Microbes in the gastrointestinal tract are under selective pressure to manipulate host eating behavior to increase their fitness, sometimes at the expense of host fitness. Microbes may do this through two potential strategies: (i) generating cravings for foods that they specialize on or foods that suppress their competitors, or (ii) inducing dysphoria until we eat foods that enhance their fitness. We review several potential mechanisms for microbial control over eating behavior including microbial influence on reward and satiety pathways, production of toxins that alter mood, changes to receptors including taste receptors, and hijacking of the vagus nerve, the neural axis between the gut and the brain. We also review the evidence for alternative explanations for cravings and unhealthy eating behavior. Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, fecal transplants, and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating.
Microbial genes, brain & behaviour – epigenetic regulation of the gut–brain axis Genes, Brain and Behavior
To date, there is rapidly increasing evidence for host–microbe interaction at virtually all levels of complexity, ranging from direct cell-to-cell communication to extensive systemic signalling, and involving various organs and organ systems, including the central nervous system. As such, the discovery that differential microbial composition is associated with alterations in behaviour and cognition has significantly contributed to establishing the microbiota–gut–brain axis as an extension of the well-accepted gut–brain axis concept. Many efforts have been focused on delineating a role for this axis in health and disease, ranging from stress-related disorders such as depression, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. There is also a growing appreciation of the role of epigenetic mechanisms in shaping brain and behaviour. However, the role of epigenetics in informing host–microbe interactions has received little attention to date. This is despite the fact that there are many plausible routes of interaction between epigenetic mechanisms and the host-microbiota dialogue. From this new perspective we put forward novel, yet testable, hypotheses. Firstly, we suggest that gut-microbial products can affect chromatin plasticity within their host's brain that in turn leads to changes in neuronal transcription and eventually alters host behaviour. Secondly, we argue that the microbiota is an important mediator of gene-environment interactions. Finally, we reason that the microbiota itself may be viewed as an epigenetic entity. In conclusion, the fields of (neuro)epigenetics and microbiology are converging at many levels and more interdisciplinary studies are necessary to unravel the full range of this interaction.
Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve PNAS
There is increasing, but largely indirect, evidence pointing to an effect of commensal gut microbiota on the central nervous system (CNS). However, it is unknown whether lactic acid bacteria such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus could have a direct effect on neurotransmitter receptors in the CNS in normal, healthy animals. GABA is the main CNS inhibitory neurotransmitter and is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes. Alterations in central GABA receptor expression are implicated in the pathogenesis of anxiety and depression, which are highly comorbid with functional bowel disorders. In this work, we show that chronic treatment with L. rhamnosus (JB-1) induced region-dependent alterations in GABAB1b mRNA in the brain with increases in cortical regions (cingulate and prelimbic) and concomitant reductions in expression in the hippocampus, amygdala, and locus coeruleus, in comparison with control-fed mice. In addition, L. rhamnosus (JB-1) reduced GABAAα2 mRNA expression in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, but increased GABAAα2 in the hippocampus. Importantly, L. rhamnosus (JB-1) reduced stress-induced corticosterone and anxiety- and depression-related behavior. Moreover, the neurochemical and behavioral effects were not found in vagotomized mice, identifying the vagus as a major modulatory constitutive communication pathway between the bacteria exposed to the gut and the brain. Together, these findings highlight the important role of bacteria in the bidirectional communication of the gut–brain axis and suggest that certain organisms may prove to be useful therapeutic adjuncts in stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.
The adoptive transfer of behavioral phenotype via the intestinal microbiota: experimental evidence and clinical implications Current Opinion in Microbiology
Intestinal commensal bacteria or their products may be used to treat CNS disorders.
There is growing interest in the ability of the intestinal microbiome to influence host function within and beyond the gastrointestinal tract. Here we review evidence of microbiome–brain interactions in mice and focus on the ability to transfer behavioral traits between mouse strains using fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT). Transplantation alters brain chemistry and behavior in recipient ex-germ free mice, raising the possibility of using FMT for disorders of the central nervous system, and prompting caution in the selection of FMT donors for conditions that may include refractory Clostridium difficile infection, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease in humans.•Behavioral phenotype can be transferred via the intestinal microbiota in mice.
•Changes in behavior in recipient mice are accompanied by changes in brain chemistry.
•Investigation of the intestinal microbiome in central nervous system (CNS) disorders is warranted.
•Donor screening for fecal transplants should exclude CNS and psychiatric illness.
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