The gut microbiota and the emergence of autoimmunity: Relevance to major psychiatric disorders

Emily G. Severance, Dag Tveiten, Lief H. Lindström, Robert H. Yolken, Karl L. Reichelt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Autoimmune phenotypes are prevalent in major psychiatric disorders Disequilibria of cellular processes occurring in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract likely contribute to immune dysfunction in psychiatric disorders As the venue of a complex community of resident microbes, the gut in a homeostatic state equates with a functional digestive system, cellular barrier stability and properly regulated recognition of self and non-self antigens When gut processes become disrupted as a result of environmental or genetic factors, autoimmunity may ensue Methods: Here, we review the issues pertinent to autoimmunity and the microbiome in psychiatric disorders and show that many of the reported immune risk factors for the development of these brain disorders are in fact related and consistent with dysfunctions occurring in the gut We review the few human microbiome studies that have been done in people with psychiatric disorders and supplement this information with mechanistic data gleaned from experimental rodent studies Results: These investigations demonstrate changes in behavior and brain biochemistry directly attributable to alterations in the gut microbiome We present a model by which autoantigens are produced by extrinsicallyderived food and microbial factors bound to intrinsic components of the gut including receptors present in the enteric nervous system Conclusion: This new focus on examining activities outside of the CNS for relevance to the etiology and pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders may require new modalities or a re-evaluation of pharmaceutical targets found in peripheral systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6076-6086
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent pharmaceutical design
Issue number40
StatePublished - 2016


  • Autism
  • Bacteria
  • Celiac disease
  • Gluten
  • Gut-brain axis
  • Microbiota
  • NMDA receptor
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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