Researchers have described new molecules which form a direct link between the gut microbiome and the brain, leading to inhibition of brain cell function in pre-clinical investigations in mice.
In the study, the scientists from Glasgow university were able to identify two new bacterial molecules that were present in both the gut and the brain of mice. The researchers used mass spectrometry imaging to map these molecules, which were produced by bacteria in the gut microbiome, before they travelled to distinct parts of the brain.
Dr Donal Wall, from the University’s Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, said: “Communication between the gut microbiome and the brain is now recognised as playing an important role in neurological health. The novel techniques we used in this study allowed us to demonstrate a molecular exchange between the gut microbiome and the brain, which could be of biological importance in many diseases.”
The molecules – which were found within specific regions of the mouse brain – have a similar structure tocarnitine, a molecule used to help burn fatty acids for energy. Alterations to the gut microbiome are associated with various neurological diseases, yet evidence of a direct interaction between gut microbiome compounds and the brain has remained elusive.
This is the first mechanistic description of a microbial molecule inhibiting the function of the central nervous system’s mitochondria – the parts of cells responsible for energy production.
“In this study, the microbiome compounds we found – which ‘mimic’ and localize with carnitine after travelling to the brain in the mice we studied, also affected its function, making it an extremely important finding for ongoing research in this area,” said Dr Wall.
This is the first mechanistic description of a microbial molecule inhibiting the function of the central nervous system’s mitochondria – the parts of cells responsible for energy production. The two novel molecules produced by the gut microbiome described in the study are the first that can cross into the brain of mouse models and localise with, and antagonise, the function of carnitine.
The paper is published in Science Advances. The work was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and AstraZeneca.