Mining microbes for mental health: Determining the role of microbial metabolic pathways in human brain health and disease.
Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews. 2021;125:698-761
Plain language summary
The microbiota-gut-brain axis is an emerging area of focus for mental health and disease. Metabolic products from gut microbiota exert direct and indirect effects on the brain through various body systems. The aim of this study was to review the evidence on these metabolic pathways and utilise new predictive tools to assess metabolic signatures of various disease states. This review included 278 studies and, despite the weak evidence, identified new links between gut microbial metabolic pathways in schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and anxiety and depression. The authors conclude this review provides a novel approach for understanding the mechanisms behind the bidirectional communication between the gut and brain. They also suggest guidelines for analysing and interpreting metadata of human-microbiome-brain studies and provide a framework for better understanding these metabolic pathways in relation to the brain.
There is increasing knowledge regarding the role of the microbiome in modulating the brain and behaviour. Indeed, the actions of microbial metabolites are key for appropriate gut-brain communication in humans. Among these metabolites, short-chain fatty acids, tryptophan, and bile acid metabolites/pathways show strong preclinical evidence for involvement in various aspects of brain function and behaviour. With the identification of neuroactive gut-brain modules, new predictive tools can be applied to existing datasets. We identified 278 studies relating to the human microbiota-gut-brain axis which included sequencing data. This spanned across psychiatric and neurological disorders with a small number also focused on normal behavioural development. With a consistent bioinformatics pipeline, thirty-five of these datasets were reanalysed from publicly available raw sequencing files and the remainder summarised and collated. Among the reanalysed studies, we uncovered evidence of disease-related alterations in microbial metabolic pathways in Alzheimer's Disease, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. Amongst studies that could not be reanalysed, many sequencing and technical limitations hindered the discovery of specific biomarkers of microbes or metabolites conserved across studies. Future studies are warranted to confirm our findings. We also propose guidelines for future human microbiome analysis to increase reproducibility and consistency within the field.
Whole Blueberry and Isolated Polyphenol-Rich Fractions Modulate Specific Gut Microbes in an In Vitro Colon Model and in a Pilot Study in Human Consumers.
Blueberry (BB) consumption is linked to improved health. The bioconversion of the polyphenolic content of BB by fermentative bacteria in the large intestine may be a necessary step for the health benefits attributed to BB consumption. The identification of specific gut microbiota taxa that respond to BB consumption and that mediate the bioconversion of consumed polyphenolic compounds into bioactive forms is required to improve our understanding of how polyphenols impact human health. We tested the ability of polyphenol-rich fractions purified from whole BB-namely, anthocyanins/flavonol glycosides (ANTH/FLAV), proanthocyanidins (PACs), the sugar/acid fraction (S/A), and total polyphenols (TPP)-to modulate the fecal microbiota composition of healthy adults in an in vitro colon system. In a parallel pilot study, we tested the effect of consuming 38 g of freeze-dried BB powder per day for 6 weeks on the fecal microbiota of 17 women in two age groups (i.e., young and older). The BB ingredients had a distinct effect on the fecal microbiota composition in the artificial colon model. The ANTH/FLAV and PAC fractions were more effective in promoting microbiome alpha diversity compared to S/A and TPP, and these effects were attributed to differentially responsive taxa. Dietary enrichment with BB resulted in a moderate increase in the diversity of the microbiota of the older subjects but not in younger subjects, and certain health-relevant taxa were significantly associated with BB consumption. Alterations in the abundance of some gut bacteria correlated not only with BB consumption but also with increased antioxidant activity in blood. Collectively, these pilot data support the notion that BB consumption is associated with gut microbiota changes and health benefits.