Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: New Therapeutic Opportunities

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2020 Jan 6;60:477-502. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010919-023628. Epub 2019 Sep 10.


The traditional fields of pharmacology and toxicology are beginning to consider the substantial impact our gut microbiota has on host physiology. The microbiota-gut-brain axis is emerging as a particular area of interest and a potential new therapeutic target for effective treatment of central nervous system disorders, in addition to being a potential cause of drug side effects. Microbiota-gut-brain axis signaling can occur via several pathways, including via the immune system, recruitment of host neurochemical signaling, direct enteric nervous system routes and the vagus nerve, and the production of bacterial metabolites. Altered gut microbial profiles have been described in several psychiatric and neurological disorders. Psychobiotics, live biotherapeutics or substances whose beneficial effects on the brain are bacterially mediated, are currently being investigated as direct and/or adjunctive therapies for psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders and possibly for neurodegenerative disease, and they may emerge as new therapeutic options in the clinical management of brain disorders.

Keywords: microbiota-gut-brain axis; prebiotic; probiotic; psychobiotic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / microbiology
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / microbiology
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / therapy
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / epidemiology
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / microbiology
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / microbiology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / physiopathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / therapy