Gut microorganisms affect our physiology

December 29, 2016
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Researchers have found evidence that could shed new light on the complex community of trillions of microorganisms living in all our guts, and how they interact with our bodies.

Scientists at the University of Exeter Medical School and University of Zaragoza in Spain studied a protein known as TLR2, a critical detector of the found in the intestine. They found that it regulates levels of serotonin - a neurotransmitter which carries messages to the brain, and is also found in the gut, where it regulates our bowel routines.

The research, carried out in cell cultures and verified in mice, provides strong evidence that microbiota can interfere with human physiology by modulating the activity. Serotonin transporter is a target for numerous diseases and it seems that microbiota living in our guts is able to interfere with this transporter, controlling our .

The finding, published in PLOS ONE, comes as scientists across the world are working to understand the complicated interactions between the "invisible world" of the microbiota in our bodies and the impact they have on our health and even our moods. Recently, scientists in California found evidence that the bacteria in the gut play a role in causing Parkinson's Disease.

It may also help explain how the microbiota in our guts affect our physiology. Inflammatory bowel disease is thought to be triggered when TLR2 is not functioning properly, but so far, the mechanisms behind this have not been fully understood. This study aimed to further this understanding, and was supported the Foundation for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases in Aragón (ARAINF), in Spain.

Dr Eva Latorre, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Exeter Medical School, said the new finding helped to further understanding in a fast-growing research area. She said: "This paper has concluded that the protein TLR2 alters the availability of serotonin, which is important in a range of conditions from depression to . It is early days in this research though. We need to understand much more about the relationship between the microbiota in our guts and how they interact, before we can hope to harness effective new treatments."

The research team examined human cells in a model of the intestine in the laboratory, looking at how they express proteins and RNA - activities which regulate how they behave. They found that TLR2 controls serotonin transporter - obtaining the same result in studies on mice.

Principal investigator of this study, Professor José E Mesonero, at the University of Zaragoza, said: "This paper opens our minds about the complex universe of this forgotten organ: the microbiome. We have concluded that TLR2 not only can detect microbiota, but also modulate serotonin transport, one of the crucial mechanism in neurological and inflammatory diseases. Much has to be yet studied, but this work can improve our understanding about the connection between gut and brain thought microbiota."

The paper, called 'Intestinal serotonin transporter inhibition by Toll-like receptor 2 activation. A feedback modulation', is published in PLOS ONE, by Eva Latorre, Elena Layunta, Laura Grasa, Marta Castro, Julián Pardo, Fernando Gomollón, Ana I. Alcalde and José E. Mesonero.

Explore further: Researchers visualize brain's serotonin pump, provide blueprint for new, more effective SSRIs

Related Stories

Researchers visualize brain's serotonin pump, provide blueprint for new, more effective SSRIs

April 6, 2016
Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University's Vollum Institute have uncovered remarkably detailed 3-D views of one of the most important transporters in the brain - the serotonin transporter. Their study, published ...

Key cause of Parkinson's disease can be treated

December 1, 2016
A new Australian study that models the early stages of Parkinson's disease has given researchers insight into its causes and a possible treatment.

Rat study shows gut microbes play a role in colon cancer susceptibility

July 13, 2016
The microscopic organisms that live in our gut do more than help us digest food. A new study in rats bolsters a growing body of evidence that the complex mix of microorganisms found in the gut, known as gut microbiota, could ...

The healing effect of faecal microbiota transplantation lasts for long

October 11, 2016
Researchers in the University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital have studied in detail the intestinal microbiota of 14 patients treated with a faecal microbiota transplant. The patients suffered from recurrent ...

Depression is detectable in the blood

April 30, 2014
Researchers at the MedUni Vienna have demonstrated the possibility of using a blood test to detect depression. While blood tests for mental illnesses have until recently been regarded as impossible, a recent study clearly ...

Compound enhances SSRI antidepressant's effects in mice

June 21, 2013
A synthetic compound is able to turn off "secondary" vacuum cleaners in the brain that take up serotonin, resulting in the "happy" chemical being more plentiful, scientists from the School of Medicine at The University of ...

Recommended for you

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

October 19, 2017
Researchers at the University of Tübingen have become the first to keep human brain tissue alive outside the body for several weeks. The researchers, headed by Dr. Niklas Schwarz, Dr. Henner Koch and Dr. Thomas Wuttke at ...

Cancer drug found to offer promising results in treating sepsis in test mice

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A combined team of researchers from China and the U.S. has found that a drug commonly used to treat lung cancer in humans offers a degree of protection against sepsis in test mice. In their paper published ...

Tracing cell death pathway points to drug targets for brain damage, kidney injury, asthma

October 19, 2017
University of Pittsburgh scientists are unlocking the complexities of a recently discovered cell death process that plays a key role in health and disease, and new findings link their discovery to asthma, kidney injury and ...

Study reveals key molecular link in major cell growth pathway

October 19, 2017
A team of scientists led by Whitehead Institute has uncovered a surprising molecular link that connects how cells regulate growth with how they sense and make available the nutrients required for growth. Their work, which ...

Inflammation trains the skin to heal faster

October 18, 2017
Scars may fade, but the skin remembers. New research from The Rockefeller University reveals that wounds or other harmful, inflammation-provoking experiences impart long-lasting memories to stem cells residing in the skin, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.