Friends with social benefits: host-microbe interactions as a driver of brain evolution and development?

Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2014 Oct 29;4:147. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2014.00147. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

The tight association of the human body with trillions of colonizing microbes that we observe today is the result of a long evolutionary history. Only very recently have we started to understand how this symbiosis also affects brain function and behavior. In this hypothesis and theory article, we propose how host-microbe associations potentially influenced mammalian brain evolution and development. In particular, we explore the integration of human brain development with evolution, symbiosis, and RNA biology, which together represent a "social triangle" that drives human social behavior and cognition. We argue that, in order to understand how inter-kingdom communication can affect brain adaptation and plasticity, it is inevitable to consider epigenetic mechanisms as important mediators of genome-microbiome interactions on an individual as well as a transgenerational time scale. Finally, we unite these interpretations with the hologenome theory of evolution. Taken together, we propose a tighter integration of neuroscience fields with host-associated microbiology by taking an evolutionary perspective.

Keywords: epigenetics; evo-devo; gene-environment interactions; microbiota; neurodevelopment; non-coding RNA; sociality; transgenerational.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological
  • Animals
  • Behavior
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Microbiota
  • Symbiosis