Neuropeptides in the microbiota-brain axis and feeding behavior in autism spectrum disorder

Nutrition. 2019 May;61:43-48. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2018.10.030. Epub 2018 Oct 27.


A combination of altered social and feeding behaviors is common in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, the underlying mechanisms are unknown. Nevertheless, it has been established that several specific neuropeptides are critically involved in the regulation of both feeding and social behavior, such as α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) and oxytocin, respectively. Moreover, recent data implicated gut microbiota in regulation of host feeding and emotion and revealed its dysbiosis in ASD, suggesting a mechanistic role of altered microbiota-brain axis in ASD. In this review, we discuss how gut microbiota dysbiosis may alter hunger and satiety peptide hormones as well as brain peptidergic pathways involved in the regulation of host feeding and social behaviors and hence may contribute to the ASD pathophysiology. In particular, we show that interactions between α-MSH and oxytocin systems in the brain can provide clues for better understanding of the mechanisms underlying altered feeding and social behaviors in ASD and that the origin of such alterations can be linked to gut microbiota.

Keywords: Autism; Brain; Feeding; Gut microbiota; Neuropeptides; Social behavior.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / metabolism*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / microbiology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / microbiology
  • Dysbiosis / metabolism
  • Dysbiosis / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism*
  • Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • alpha-MSH / metabolism


  • Neuropeptides
  • Oxytocin
  • alpha-MSH