Growing up in a bubble: using germ-free animals to assess the influence of the gut microbiota on brain and behavior

dc.contributor.authorLuczynski, Pauline
dc.contributor.authorMcVey Neufeld, Karen-Anne
dc.contributor.authorOriach, Clara Seira
dc.contributor.authorClarke, Gerard
dc.contributor.authorDinan, Timothy G.
dc.contributor.authorCryan, John F.
dc.contributor.funderScience Foundation Irelanden
dc.contributor.funderHealth Research Boarden
dc.contributor.funderSeventh Framework Programmeen
dc.contributor.funderBrain and Behavior Research Foundationen
dc.description.abstractThere is a growing recognition of the importance of the commensal intestinal microbiota in the development and later function of the central nervous system. Research using germ-free mice (mice raised without any exposure to microorganisms) has provided some of the most persuasive evidence for a role of these bacteria in gut-brain signalling. Key findings show that the microbiota is necessary for normal stress responsivity, anxiety-like behaviors, sociability, and cognition. Furthermore, the microbiota maintains central nervous system homeostasis by regulating immune function and blood brain barrier integrity. Studies have also found that the gut microbiota influences neurotransmitter, synaptic, and neurotrophic signalling systems and neurogenesis. The principle advantage of the germ-free mouse model is in proof-of-principle studies and that a complete microbiota or defined consortiums of bacteria can be introduced at various developmental time points. However, a germ-free upbringing can induce permanent neurodevelopmental deficits that may deem the model unsuitable for specific scientific queries that do not involve early-life microbial deficiency. As such, alternatives and complementary strategies to the germ-free model are warranted and include antibiotic treatment to create microbiota-deficient animals at distinct time points across the lifespan. Increasing our understanding of the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behavior has the potential to inform novel management strategies for stress-related gastrointestinal and neuropsychiatric disorders.en
dc.description.sponsorshipScience Foundation Ireland (APC Microbiome Institute Grant Number SFI/12/RC/2273); Health Research Board (Grant Numbers HRA_POR/2012/32; HRA_POR/2014/647); Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (NARSAD Young Investigator Grant 20771)en
dc.description.statusPeer revieweden
dc.description.versionPublished Versionen
dc.identifier.citationLUCZYNSKI, P., MCVEY NEUFELD, K.-A., ORIACH, C. S., CLARKE, G., DINAN, T. G. and CRYAN, J. F. (2016) ‘Growing up in a bubble: using germ-free animals to assess the influence of the gut microbiota on brain and behavior’, International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, 19(8), pp. 1-17. doi:10.1093/ijnp/pyw020en
dc.identifier.journaltitleInternational Journal of Neuropsychopharmacologyen
dc.publisherOxford University Pressen
dc.relation.projectinfo:eu-repo/grantAgreement/EC/FP7::SP1::KBBE/613979/EU/Microbiome Influence on Energy balance and Brain Development-Function Put into Action to Tackle Diet-related Diseases and Behavior./MYNEWGUTen
dc.rights© 2016, the Authors. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.en
dc.subjectMicrobiota-gut-brain axisen
dc.subjectGerm-free mouseen
dc.subjectStress responseen
dc.subjectSocial developmenten
dc.subjectCognitive dysfunctionen
dc.titleGrowing up in a bubble: using germ-free animals to assess the influence of the gut microbiota on brain and behavioren
dc.typeArticle (peer-reviewed)en
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