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      The microbiota-gut-brain axis in gastrointestinal disorders: stressed bugs, stressed brain or both?

      The Journal of Physiology

      physiopathology, microbiology, Stress, Psychological, Microbiota, Humans, physiology, Gastrointestinal Tract, Gastrointestinal Diseases, Brain, Animals

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          Abstract

          The gut-brain axis is the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain, which occurs through multiple pathways that include hormonal, neural and immune mediators. The signals along this axis can originate in the gut, the brain or both, with the objective of maintaining normal gut function and appropriate behaviour. In recent years, the study of gut microbiota has become one of the most important areas in biomedical research. Attention has focused on the role of gut microbiota in determining normal gut physiology and immunity and, more recently, on its role as modulator of host behaviour ('microbiota-gut-brain axis'). We therefore review the literature on the role of gut microbiota in gut homeostasis and link it with mechanisms that could influence behaviour. We discuss the association of dysbiosis with disease, with particular focus on functional bowel disorders and their relationship to psychological stress. This is of particular interest because exposure to stressors has long been known to increase susceptibility to and severity of gastrointestinal diseases. © 2014 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology © 2014 The Physiological Society.

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          Most cited references 62

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          Early life stress alters behavior, immunity, and microbiota in rats: implications for irritable bowel syndrome and psychiatric illnesses.

          Adverse early life events are associated with a maladaptive stress response system and might increase the vulnerability to disease in later life. Several disorders have been associated with early life stress, ranging from depression to irritable bowel syndrome. This makes the identification of the neurobiological substrates that are affected by adverse experiences in early life invaluable. The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of early life stress on the brain-gut axis. Male rat pups were stressed by separating them from their mothers for 3 hours daily between postnatal days 2-12. The control group was left undisturbed with their mothers. Behavior, immune response, stress sensitivity, visceral sensation, and fecal microbiota were analyzed. The early life stress increased the number of fecal boli in response to a novel stress. Plasma corticosterone was increased in the maternally separated animals. An increase in the systemic immune response was noted in the stressed animals after an in vitro lipopolysaccharide challenge. Increased visceral sensation was seen in the stressed group. There was an alteration of the fecal microbiota when compared with the control group. These results show that this form of early life stress results in an altered brain-gut axis and is therefore an important model for investigating potential mechanistic insights into stress-related disorders including depression and IBS.
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            Pyrosequencing study of fecal microflora of autistic and control children.

            There is evidence of genetic predisposition to autism, but the percent of autistic subjects with this background is unknown. It is clear that other factors, such as environmental influences, may play a role in this disease. In the present study, we have examined the fecal microbial flora of 33 subjects with various severities of autism with gastrointestinal symptoms, 7 siblings not showing autistic symptoms (sibling controls) and eight non-sibling control subjects, using the bacterial tag encoded FLX amplicon pyrosequencing (bTEFAP) procedure. The results provide us with information on the microflora of stools of young children and a compelling picture of unique fecal microflora of children with autism with gastrointestinal symptomatology. Differences based upon maximum observed and maximum predicted operational taxonomic units were statistically significant when comparing autistic and control subjects with p-values ranging from <0.001 to 0.009 using both parametric and non-parametric estimators. At the phylum level, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes showed the most difference between groups of varying severities of autism. Bacteroidetes was found at high levels in the severely autistic group, while Firmicutes were more predominant in the control group. Smaller, but significant, differences also occurred in the Actinobacterium and Proteobacterium phyla. Desulfovibrio species and Bacteroides vulgatus are present in significantly higher numbers in stools of severely autistic children than in controls. If the unique microbial flora is found to be a causative or consequent factor in this type of autism, it may have implications with regard to a specific diagnostic test, its epidemiology, and for treatment and prevention. Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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              Effects of the probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis in the maternal separation model of depression.

              The concept that intestinal microbial composition not only affects the health of the gut, but also influences centrally-mediated systems involved in mood, is supported by a growing body of literature. Despite the emergent interest in brain-gut communication and its possible role in the pathogenesis of psychiatric disorders such as depression, particularly subtypes with accompanying gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, there are few studies dedicated to the search for therapeutic solutions that address both central and peripheral facets of these illnesses. This study aims to assess the potential benefits of the probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis in the rat maternal separation (MS) model, a paradigm that has proven to be of value in the study of stress-related GI and mood disorders. MS adult rat offsprings were chronically treated with bifidobacteria or citalopram and subjected to the forced swim test (FST) to assess motivational state. Cytokine concentrations in stimulated whole blood samples, monoamine levels in the brain, and central and peripheral hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis measures were also analysed. MS reduced swim behavior and increased immobility in the FST, decreased noradrenaline (NA) content in the brain, and enhanced peripheral interleukin (IL)-6 release and amygdala corticotrophin-releasing factor mRNA levels. Probiotic treatment resulted in normalization of the immune response, reversal of behavioral deficits, and restoration of basal NA concentrations in the brainstem. These findings point to a more influential role for bifidobacteria in neural function, and suggest that probiotics may have broader therapeutic applications than previously considered. Copyright © 2010 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                10.1113/jphysiol.2014.273995
                4214655
                24756641

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