Behavior and the gut microbiome

Aggression is one of the most important social behaviors in nature for procreation and survival. However, understanding the underlying pathways and networks leading to aggression remains a major challenge. Although there has been some progress deciphering genetic factors and neural mechanisms influencing aggression, the precise networks and environmental factors controlling aggression remain a mystery. We suggest the novel concept that host aggression may be regulated in part by the microbiota. We and others have recently linked the gut microbiota, the overall constellation of microorganisms residing within our gut, to behaviors such as risk taking, mating and sexual behavior, as well as hormone production, regulation, and secretion. We aim to characterize the effects of antibiotics, germ-free animal models, and specific microbes on aggression in flies and mice. We hypothesize that these processes are mediated by pheromones, bacterial and host gene products, and host brain hormones. Considering the microbiota as a novel element regulating aggression is an audacious concept and outcomes of this research will lead to a better understanding of the effects of microbiota on behavior in model systems, and open new horizons in recognition of pathways linking microbiota, hormones and aggression.


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  3. Kevin Champagne-Jorgensen, M Firoz Mian, Sebastian Kay, Hila Hanani, Oren Ziv, Karen-Anne McVey Neufeld, Omry Koren, John Bienenstock. Prenatal Low-Dose Penicillin Results in Long-Term Sex-Specific Changes to Murine Behaviour, Immune Regulation, and Gut Microbiota. Brain Behav Immun. 2020, 84:154-163.

  4. Werbner M, Barsheshet Y, Werbner N, Zigdon M, Averbuch I, Ziv O, Brant B, Elliott E, Gelberg S, Titelbaum M, Koren O, Avni O. Social-Stress-Responsive Microbiota Induces Stimulation of Self-Reactive Effector T Helper Cells. mSystems. 2019, 4(4). pii: e00292-18.

  5. Lukić I, Getselter D, Ziv O, Oron O, Reuveni E, Koren O, Elliott E. Antidepressants affect gut microbiota and Ruminococcus flavefaciens is able to abolish their effects on depressive-like behavior. Transl Psychiatry. 2019, 9(1):133

  6. Leclercq S, Mian FM, Stanisz AM, Bindels LB, Cambier E, Ben-Amram H, Koren O, Forsythe P & J. Bienenstock. Low-dose penicillin in early life induces long-term changes in murine gut microbiota, brain cytokines and behavior. Nature Communications. 2017, 8:15062.