Neurotransmitters: The Critical Modulators Regulating Gut–Brain Axis

Rahul Mittal, Luca H. Debs, Amit P. Patel, Desiree Nguyen, Kunal Patel, Gregory O'Connor, M'hamed Grati, Jeenu Mittal, Denise Yan, Adrien A. Eshraghi, Sapna K. Deo, Sylvia Daunert, Xue Zhong Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

88 Scopus citations

Abstract

Neurotransmitters, including catecholamines and serotonin, play a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis in the human body. Studies on these neurotransmitters mainly revolved around their role in the “fight or flight” response, transmitting signals across a chemical synapse and modulating blood flow throughout the body. However, recent research has demonstrated that neurotransmitters can play a significant role in the gastrointestinal (GI) physiology. Norepinephrine (NE), epinephrine (E), dopamine (DA), and serotonin have recently been a topic of interest because of their roles in the gut physiology and their potential roles in GI and central nervous system pathophysiology. These neurotransmitters are able to regulate and control not only blood flow, but also affect gut motility, nutrient absorption, GI innate immune system, and the microbiome. Furthermore, in pathological states, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Parkinson's disease, the levels of these neurotransmitters are dysregulated, therefore causing a variety of GI symptoms. Research in this field has shown that exogenous manipulation of catecholamine serum concentrations can help in decreasing symptomology and/or disease progression. In this review article, we discuss the current state-of-the-art research and literature regarding the role of neurotransmitters in regulation of normal GI physiology, their impact on several disease processes, and novel work focused on the use of exogenous hormones and/or psychotropic medications to improve disease symptomology. J. Cell. Physiol. 232: 2359–2372, 2017.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2359-2372
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Volume232
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

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