Gut microbiota-brain axis in depression: The role of neuroinflammation

Eur J Neurosci. 2021 Jan;53(1):222-235. doi: 10.1111/ejn.14631. Epub 2019 Dec 18.


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a psychiatric condition that affects a large number of people in the world, and the treatment existents do not work for all individuals affected. Thus, it is believed that other systems or pathways which regulate brain networks involved in mood regulation and cognition are associated with MDD pathogenesis. Studies in humans and animal models have been shown that in MDD there are increased levels of inflammatory mediators, including cytokines and chemokines in both periphery and central nervous system (CNS). In addition, microglial activation appears to be a key event that triggers changes in signaling cascades and gene expression that would be determinant for the onset of depressive symptoms. Recent researches also point out that changes in the gut microbiota would lead to a systemic inflammation that in different ways would reach the CNS modulating inflammatory pathways and especially the microglia, which could influence responses to treatments. Moreover, pre- and probiotics have shown antidepressant responses and anti-inflammatory effects. This review will focus on studies that show the relationship of inflammation with the gut microbiota-brain axis and its relation with MDD.

Keywords: gut microbiota-brain axis; inflammasome; kynurenine pathway; major depressive disorder; neuroinflammation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain
  • Depression
  • Depressive Disorder, Major* / therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Probiotics*