The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is essential for the absorption of nutrients, induction of mucosal and systemic immune responses, and maintenance of a healthy gut microbiota.
Key aspects of gastrointestinal physiology are controlled by the enteric nervous system, which is composed of neurons and glial cells.
Drs Yuuki Obata and Vassilis Pachnis from the United Kingdom reviewed recent advances on the role of microbiota, and the immune system on the development and homeostasis of the enteric nervous system, a key relay station along the gut–brain axis.
The team report that enteric nervous system is exposed to and interacts with the outer, and inner microenvironment of the gut.
|The enteric nervous system has been associated with the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders|
Although the cellular blueprint of the enteric nervous system is mostly in place by birth, the functional maturation of intestinal neural networks is completed within the microenvironment of the postnatal gut, under the influence of gut microbiota and the mucosal immune system.
The researchers report that recent studies have shown the importance of molecular interactions among microbiota, enteric neurons, and immune cells for GI homeostasis.
In addition to its role in GI physiology, the enteric nervous system has been associated with the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.
Dr Obata's team concludes, "This raises the possibility that microbiota–enteric nervous system interactions could offer a viable strategy for influencing the course of brain diseases."