Melancholic microbes: a link between gut microbiota and depression?


Author for Correspondence

John F. Cryan, Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience, Western Gateway Building, University College Cork, Ireland.

Tel: +353 21 4205426; fax: +353 21 4273518;



Prof. Ted G. Dinan, Department of Psychiatry, Cork University Hospital, Wilton, Cork, Ireland.

Tel: +353 21 4901220; fax: +353 21 4922584;



There is a growing awareness of the potential for microbiota to influence gut-brain communication in health and disease. A variety of strategies have been used to study the impact of the microbiota on brain function and these include antibiotic use, probiotic treatments, fecal microbiota transplantation, gastrointestinal infection studies, and germ-free studies. All of these approaches provide evidence to support the view that the microbiota can influence brain chemistry and consequently behavior. Efforts are now turning to investigate the role of microbiota in animal models of psychopathology. Animal models of depression are thus essential in studying the complex interplay between the microbiota and brain. Recent studies published in this Journal and elsewhere demonstrate that there is a distinct perturbation of the composition of gut microbiota in animal models of depression and chronic stress. This has direct implications for the development of psychobiotic-based therapeutic strategies for psychiatric disorders. Moreover, given that affective co-morbidities, such as major depression and anxiety states, are common in patients presenting with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it may have implications for functional bowel disorders also. Further studies require appropriately phenotyped patients with depression and/or IBS using a judicious use of techniques including functional imaging and in depth microbial pyrosequencing.