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Friends with social benefits: host-microbe interactions as a driver of brain evolution and development?

Stilling RM, Bordenstein SR, Dinan TG, Cryan JF
Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2014 4: 147

PMID: 25401092 · PMCID: PMC4212686 · DOI:10.3389/fcimb.2014.00147

The tight association of the human body with trillions of colonizing microbes that we observe today is the result of a long evolutionary history. Only very recently have we started to understand how this symbiosis also affects brain function and behavior. In this hypothesis and theory article, we propose how host-microbe associations potentially influenced mammalian brain evolution and development. In particular, we explore the integration of human brain development with evolution, symbiosis, and RNA biology, which together represent a "social triangle" that drives human social behavior and cognition. We argue that, in order to understand how inter-kingdom communication can affect brain adaptation and plasticity, it is inevitable to consider epigenetic mechanisms as important mediators of genome-microbiome interactions on an individual as well as a transgenerational time scale. Finally, we unite these interpretations with the hologenome theory of evolution. Taken together, we propose a tighter integration of neuroscience fields with host-associated microbiology by taking an evolutionary perspective.

MeSH Terms (11)

Adaptation, Biological Animals Behavior Biological Evolution Brain Epigenesis, Genetic Gene-Environment Interaction Host-Pathogen Interactions Humans Microbiota Symbiosis

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