Microbiome-Gut-Brain Axis and Toll-Like Receptors in Parkinson's Disease.

International journal of molecular sciences. 2018;19(6)
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Plain language summary

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressively debilitating neurodegenerative disease and recently the role of the microbiota-gut-brain axis has gained attention in patients with PD. Research shows that an altered gut microbiota can activate Toll-like receptors (TLRs), receptors involved in the innate immune response, causing an inflammatory cascade in the gut and brain. Based on this knowledge, gut microbiota and TLRs may be potential therapeutic targets for PD. This review sheds light on the current knowledge regarding the association between the microbiota-gut-brain axis and innate immunity via TLR signalling in PD. Increased understanding of this relationship should lead to insights on the pathophysiology of PD, as well as improved dietary and pharmaceutical therapeutic approaches in PD patients. Based on the existing evidence, the authors conclude that through modulating the gut, thus balancing the immune response in PD patients, it may be possible to influence early phases of the neurodegenerative cascade.


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressively debilitating neurodegenerative disease characterized by α-synucleinopathy, which involves all districts of the brain-gut axis, including the central, autonomic and enteric nervous systems. The highly bidirectional communication between the brain and the gut is markedly influenced by the microbiome through integrated immunological, neuroendocrine and neurological processes. The gut microbiota and its relevant metabolites interact with the host via a series of biochemical and functional inputs, thereby affecting host homeostasis and health. Indeed, a dysregulated microbiota-gut-brain axis in PD might lie at the basis of gastrointestinal dysfunctions which predominantly emerge many years prior to the diagnosis, corroborating the theory that the pathological process is spread from the gut to the brain. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a crucial role in innate immunity by recognizing conserved motifs primarily found in microorganisms and a dysregulation in their signaling may be implicated in α-synucleinopathy, such as PD. An overstimulation of the innate immune system due to gut dysbiosis and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, together with higher intestinal barrier permeability, may provoke local and systemic inflammation as well as enteric neuroglial activation, ultimately triggering the development of alpha-synuclein pathology. In this review, we provide the current knowledge regarding the relationship between the microbiota-gut⁻brain axis and TLRs in PD. A better understanding of the dialogue sustained by the microbiota-gut-brain axis and innate immunity via TLR signaling should bring interesting insights in the pathophysiology of PD and provide novel dietary and/or therapeutic measures aimed at shaping the gut microbiota composition, improving the intestinal epithelial barrier function and balancing the innate immune response in PD patients, in order to influence the early phases of the following neurodegenerative cascade.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Neurological ; Immune and inflammation
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Microbiome
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients ; Microorganisms
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition ; Psychological
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable
Bioactive Substances : Dopamine

Methodological quality

Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Journal Article ; Review