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Published April 2021 | Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

The gut microbiota–brain axis in behaviour and brain disorders


In a striking display of trans-kingdom symbiosis, gut bacteria cooperate with their animal hosts to regulate the development and function of the immune, metabolic and nervous systems through dynamic bidirectional communication along the 'gut–brain axis'. These processes may affect human health, as certain animal behaviours appear to correlate with the composition of gut bacteria, and disruptions in microbial communities have been implicated in several neurological disorders. Most insights about host–microbiota interactions come from animal models, which represent crucial tools for studying the various pathways linking the gut and the brain. However, there are complexities and manifest limitations inherent in translating complex human disease to reductionist animal models. In this Review, we discuss emerging and exciting evidence of intricate and crucial connections between the gut microbiota and the brain involving multiple biological systems, and possible contributions by the gut microbiota to neurological disorders. Continued advances from this frontier of biomedicine may lead to tangible impacts on human health.

Additional Information

© 2020 Springer Nature. Accepted 17 September 2020. Published 22 October 2020. S.K.M. is the Luis & Nelly Soux Professor of Microbiology at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). His laboratory explores biological mechanisms by which the gut microbiota impacts immunological and neurological diseases, including research into mouse models of inflammatory bowel disease, autism spectrum disorder and Parkinson disease. The laboratory is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Heritage Medical Research Institute, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Autism Speaks, Aligning Science Across Parkinson's and other charitable organizations and individuals. L.H.M. is a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech and recipient of am American Parkinson's Disease Association postdoctoral fellowship. H.L.S.IV is a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech and recipient of a Della Martin fellowship. The authors thank R. Abdel-Haq, J. Ousey and G. Sharon for constructive comments and N.J. Cruz and G. Tofani for assistance with the figures. Author Contributions. L.H.M. wrote the initial draft of the manuscript with editorial input from H.L.S.IV and S.K.M. All authors contributed substantially to all aspects of the article and revised versions. Competing interest. S.K.M. has financial interests in Axial Biotherapeutics, although not directly related to the contents of this article. All other authors declare no competing interests. Peer review information. Nature Reviews Microbiology thanks M. Costa-Mattioli, J. Raes and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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