Gut Bacteria and Neurotransmitters

Microorganisms. 2022 Sep 14;10(9):1838. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms10091838.


Gut bacteria play an important role in the digestion of food, immune activation, and regulation of entero-endocrine signaling pathways, but also communicate with the central nervous system (CNS) through the production of specific metabolic compounds, e.g., bile acids, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), glutamate (Glu), γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), dopamine (DA), norepinephrine (NE), serotonin (5-HT) and histamine. Afferent vagus nerve (VN) fibers that transport signals from the gastro-intestinal tract (GIT) and gut microbiota to the brain are also linked to receptors in the esophagus, liver, and pancreas. In response to these stimuli, the brain sends signals back to entero-epithelial cells via efferent VN fibers. Fibers of the VN are not in direct contact with the gut wall or intestinal microbiota. Instead, signals reach the gut microbiota via 100 to 500 million neurons from the enteric nervous system (ENS) in the submucosa and myenteric plexus of the gut wall. The modulation, development, and renewal of ENS neurons are controlled by gut microbiota, especially those with the ability to produce and metabolize hormones. Signals generated by the hypothalamus reach the pituitary and adrenal glands and communicate with entero-epithelial cells via the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA). SCFAs produced by gut bacteria adhere to free fatty acid receptors (FFARs) on the surface of intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) and interact with neurons or enter the circulatory system. Gut bacteria alter the synthesis and degradation of neurotransmitters. This review focuses on the effect that gut bacteria have on the production of neurotransmitters and vice versa.

Keywords: gut bacteria; neurotransmitters.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.