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Sustaining a balanced intestinal microbial community is critical for maintaining intestinal health and preventing chronic inflammation. The gut is a highly dynamic environment, subject to periodic waves of peristaltic activity. We hypothesized that this dynamic environment is a prerequisite for a balanced microbial community and that the enteric nervous system (ENS), a chief regulator of physiological processes within the gut, profoundly influences gut microbiota composition. We found that zebrafish lacking an ENS due to a mutation in the Hirschsprung disease gene, sox10, develop microbiota-dependent inflammation that is transmissible between hosts. Profiling microbial communities across a spectrum of inflammatory phenotypes revealed that increased levels of inflammation were linked to an overabundance of pro-inflammatory bacterial lineages and a lack of anti-inflammatory bacterial lineages. Moreover, either administering a representative anti-inflammatory strain or restoring ENS function corrected the pathology. Thus, we demonstrate that the ENS modulates gut microbiota community membership to maintain intestinal health.

Citation

Annah S Rolig, Erika K Mittge, Julia Ganz, Josh V Troll, Ellie Melancon, Travis J Wiles, Kristin Alligood, W Zac Stephens, Judith S Eisen, Karen Guillemin. The enteric nervous system promotes intestinal health by constraining microbiota composition. PLoS biology. 2017 Feb;15(2):e2000689

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PMID: 28207737

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