Microbiome-gut-brain dysfunction in prodromal and symptomatic Lewy body diseases

J Neurol. 2023 Feb;270(2):746-758. doi: 10.1007/s00415-022-11461-9. Epub 2022 Nov 10.


Lewy body diseases, such as Parkinson's disease and dementia with Lewy bodies, vary in their clinical phenotype but exhibit the same defining pathological feature, α-synuclein aggregation. Microbiome-gut-brain dysfunction may play a role in the initiation or progression of disease processes, though there are multiple potential mechanisms. We discuss the need to evaluate gastrointestinal mechanisms of pathogenesis across Lewy body diseases, as disease mechanisms likely span across diagnostic categories and a 'body first' clinical syndrome may better account for the heterogeneity of clinical presentations across the disorders. We discuss two primary hypotheses that suggest that either α-synuclein aggregation occurs in the gut and spreads in a prion-like fashion to the brain or systemic inflammatory processes driven by gastrointestinal dysfunction contribute to the pathophysiology of Lewy body diseases. Both of these hypotheses posit that dysbiosis and intestinal permeability are key mechanisms and potential treatment targets. Ultimately, this work can identify early interventions targeting initial disease pathogenic processes before the development of overt motor and cognitive symptoms.

Keywords: Dementia with Lewy bodies; Dysbiosis; Gut–brain axis; Idiopathic REM sleep behavior disorder; Intestinal permeability; Parkinson’s disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Lewy Bodies / metabolism
  • Lewy Body Disease* / diagnosis
  • Neuromuscular Diseases* / pathology
  • alpha-Synuclein / metabolism


  • alpha-Synuclein