It is increasingly clear that brain processing is influenced by the gastrointestinal microbiota; study of the gut-brain axis has shown evidence that gut bacteria interact with the enteric nervous system and the central nervous system. Good brain function depends on neuromediators — that is, substances that carry messages between neurons, or from a neuron to another type of cell.
Could an increased understanding of neuromediators be the key to unlocking how the gut and the brain influence each other?
This review paper by Russian researchers Oleskin, El’-Registan, and Shenderov describes how microorganisms engage in collective activities (likened to “social behavior”), how they exchange information (or “communicate”), and how they form associations composed of many individual cells (“biosocial systems”). Cell coordination in various microbial biosocial systems such as colonies and biofilms depends on the microbes’ chemical contact and physical interaction. This review focuses on aspects of chemical communication.
Evidence suggests an important role for neuromediators in microbial communication, both within and between species. In Table 1 of this review article, authors describe the effects (and/or associations) of neuromediators, from catecholamines to nitric oxide, on microbial populations. Table 2 outlines the production of neuromediators by different bacterial species. These communicative activities of microbes may prove to have measurable effects on brain function. In the future, this information may be used in the development of new probiotic preparations that have a targeted neurochemical effect.
Oleskina AV, El’-Registanb GI, Shenderov BA. Role of Neuromediators in the Functioning of the Human Microbiota: “Business Talks” among Microorganisms and the Microbiota-Host Dialogue. Microbiology 2016; 85(1): 1-22.