Gut microbiome diversity has been strongly associated with mood-relating behaviours, including major depressive disorder (MDD). This association stems from the recently characterised bi-directional communication system between the gut and the brain, mediated by neuroimmune, neuroendocrine and sensory neural pathways. While the link between gut microbiome and depression is well supported by research, a major question needing to be addressed is the causality in the connection between the two, which will support the understanding of the role that the gut microbiota play in depression. In this article, we address this question by examining a theoretical 'chronology', reviewing the evidence supporting two possible sequences of events. First, we discuss that alterations in the gut microbiota populations of specific species might contribute to depression, and secondly, that depressive states might induce modification of specific gut microbiota species and eventually contribute to more severe depression. The feasibility of both sequences is supported by pre-clinical trials. For instance, research in rodents has shown an onset of depressive behaviour following faecal transplantations from patients with MDD. On the other hand, mental induction of stress and depressive behaviour in rodents resulted in reduced gut microbiota richness and diversity. Synthesis of these chronology dynamics raises important research directions to further understand the role that gut microbiota play in mood-relating behaviours, which holds substantial potential clinical outcomes for persons who experience MDD or related depressive disorders.
Keywords: anxiety; depressive disorder; gut microbiota; gut-brain axis; stress.