Gastrointestinal neuromuscular apparatus: An underestimated target of gut microbiota

World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Dec 7;22(45):9871-9879. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v22.i45.9871.


Over the last few years, the importance of the resident intestinal microbiota in the pathogenesis of several gastro-intestinal diseases has been largely investigated. Growing evidence suggest that microbiota can influence gastro-intestinal motility. The current working hypothesis is that dysbiosis-driven mucosal alterations induce the production of several inflammatory/immune mediators which affect gut neuro-muscular functions. Besides these indirect mucosal-mediated effects, the present review highlights that recent evidence suggests that microbiota can directly affect enteric nerves and smooth muscle cells functions through its metabolic products or bacterial molecular components translocated from the intestinal lumen. Toll-like receptors, the bacterial recognition receptors, are expressed both on enteric nerves and smooth muscle and are emerging as potential mediators between microbiota and the enteric neuromuscular apparatus. Furthermore, the ongoing studies on probiotics support the hypothesis that the neuromuscular apparatus may represent a target of intervention, thus opening new physiopathological and therapeutic scenarios.

Keywords: Enteric nervous system; Gastrointestinal motility; Irritable bowel syndrome; Microbiota; Probiotics; Smooth muscle.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dysbiosis / metabolism
  • Dysbiosis / physiopathology*
  • Enteric Nervous System / physiology*
  • Enteric Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiopathology
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism


  • Toll-Like Receptors