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Intestinal bacteria produce neurotransmitter, could play role in inflammation

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have identified commensal bacteria in the human intestine that produce a neurotransmitter that may play a role in preventing or treating inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease.

We identified, to our knowledge, the first bifidobacterial strain, Bifidobacterium dentium, that is capable of secreting large amounts of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This molecule is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central and enteric nervous systems, says Karina Pokusaeva, a researcher on the study and a member of the laboratory of James Versalovic.

GABA is one of the chief inhibitory neurotransmitters in the human central nervous system. It plays a role in regulating pain and some pain relieving drugs currently on the market act by targeting GABA receptors on neural cells.

Pokusaeva and her colleagues were interested in understanding the role the human microbiome might play in pain and scanned the genomes of potentially beneficial intestinal microorganisms, identified by the Human Microbiome Project, for evidence of a gene that would allow them to create GABA.

Lab analysis of metagenomic DNA sequencing data allowed us to demonstrate that microbial glutamate decarboxylase encoding gene is very abundant in intestinal microbiota as compared to other body sites, says Pokusaeva. One of the most prolific producers of GABA was B. dentium, which appears to secrete the compound to help it survive the acid environment.
 
 

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