The gut microbiota - the trillions of bacteria that reside within the gastrointestinal tract - has been found to not only be an essential component immune and metabolic health, but also seems to influence development and diseases of the enteric and central nervous system, including motility disorders, behavioral disorders, neurodegenerative disease, cerebrovascular accidents, and neuroimmune-mediated disorders. By leveraging animal models, several different pathways of communication have been identified along the "gut-brain-axis" including those driven by the immune system, the vagus nerve, or by modulation of neuroactive compounds by the microbiota. Of the latter, bacteria have been shown to produce and/or consume a wide range of mammalian neurotransmitters, including dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, or gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Accumulating evidence in animals suggests that manipulation of these neurotransmitters by bacteria may have an impact in host physiology, and preliminary human studies are showing that microbiota-based interventions can also alter neurotransmitter levels. Nonetheless, substantially more work is required to determine whether microbiota-mediated manipulation of human neurotransmission has any physiological implications, and if so, how it may be leveraged therapeutically. In this review this exciting route of communication along the gut-brain-axis, and accompanying data, are discussed.
Keywords: Gut microbiota; Gut-brain-axis; Human microbiota; Neurotransmitters.
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