Vagal Pathways for Microbiome-Brain-Gut Axis Communication

  • Paul Forsythe
  • John Bienenstock
  • Wolfgang A. Kunze
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 817)

Abstract

There is now strong evidence from animal studies that gut microorganism can activate the vagus nerve and that such activation plays a critical role in mediating effects on the brain and behaviour. The vagus appears to differentiate between non-pathogenic and potentially pathogenic bacteria even in the absence of overt inflammation and vagal pathways mediate signals that can induce both anxiogenic and anxiolytic effects, depending on the nature of the stimulus. Certain vagal signals from the gut can instigate an anti-inflammatory reflex with afferent signals to the brain activating an efferent response, releasing mediators including acetylcholine that, through an interaction with immune cells, attenuates inflammation. This immunomodulatory role of the vagus nerve may also have consequences for modulation of brain function and mood.

What is currently lacking are relevant data on the electrophysiology of the system. Certainly, important advances in our understanding of the gut-brain and microbiome- gut-brain axis will come from studies of how distinct microbial and nutritional stimuli activate the vagus and the nature of the signals transmitted to the brain that lead to differential changes in the neurochemistry of the brain and behaviour.

Understanding the induction and transmission of signals in the vagus nerve may have important implications for the development of microbial-or nutrition based therapeutic strategies for mood disorders.

Abbreviations

5-HT

5-Hydroxytryptamine

ATP

Adenosine triphosphate

CCK

Cholecystokinin

CNS

Central nervous system

CRF

Corticotropin-releasing factor

DHA

Docosahexaenoic acid

DRG

Dorsal root ganglia

DSS

Dextran sodium sulfate

ENS

Enteric nervous system

EPA

Eicosapentaenoic acid

FDA

Food and Drug Administration

GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid

GI

Gastrointestinal

GLP-1

Glucagon-like peptide-1

HPS

Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal

IBD

Inflammatory bowel disease

IGLE

Intraganglionic laminar vagal afferent ending

IKCa

Calcium dependent potassium channel

IPAN

Intrinsic primary afferent neuron

LPS

Lipopolysaccharide

MDD

Major depressive disorder

mRNA

Messenger RNA

NTS

Nucleus of the solitary tract

PSA

Polysaccharide

PUFA

Polyunsaturated fatty acids

PYY

Peptide YY

TNF

Tumor necrosis factor

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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Forsythe
    • 1
  • John Bienenstock
    • 2
  • Wolfgang A. Kunze
    • 3
  1. 1.Medicine, McMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Brain Body InstituteMcMaster University, St. Joseph’s HealthcareHamiltonCanada
  3. 3.Psychiatry and Behavioural NeuroscienceSt. Joseph HealthcareHamiltonCanada

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