Microbial endocrinology: Host-microbiota neuroendocrine interactions influencing brain and behavior

Gut Microbes. 2014 May-Jun;5(3):381-9. doi: 10.4161/gmic.28682. Epub 2014 Apr 1.


The ability of microorganisms, whether present as commensals within the microbiota or introduced as part of a therapeutic regimen, to influence behavior has been demonstrated by numerous laboratories over the last few years. Our understanding of the mechanisms that are responsible for microbiota-gut-brain interactions is, however, lacking. The complexity of the microbiota is, of course, a contributing factor. Nonetheless, while microbiologists approaching the issue of microbiota-gut-brain interactions in the behavior well recognize such complexity, what is often overlooked is the equal complexity of the host neurophysiological system, especially within the gut which is differentially innervated by the enteric nervous system. As such, in the search for common mechanisms by which the microbiota may influence behavior one may look for mechanisms which are shared by both host and microbiota. Such interkingdom signaling can be found in the shared production of neurochemical mediators that are found in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. The study of the production and recognition of neurochemicals that are exactly the same in structure to those produced in the vertebrate organisms is known as microbial endocrinology. The examination of the microbiota from the vantage point of host-microbiota neuroendocrine interactions cannot only identify new microbial endocrinology-based mechanisms by which the microbiota can influence host behavior, but also lead to the design of interventions in which the composition of the microbiota may be modulated in order to achieve a specific microbial endocrinology-based profile beneficial to overall host behavior.

Keywords: behavior; enteric nervous system; hormones; microbial endocrinology; neuroendocrine; signaling.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / drug effects*
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Metabolism*
  • Microbiota*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents