Considering the Microbiome in Stress-Related and Neurodevelopmental Trajectories to Schizophrenia

Kevin W. Hoffman, Jakleen J. Lee, Cheryl M. Corcoran, David Kimhy, Thorsten M. Kranz, Dolores Malaspina

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Early life adversity and prenatal stress are consistently associated with an increased risk for schizophrenia, although the exact pathogenic mechanisms linking the exposures with the disease remain elusive. Our previous view of the HPA stress axis as an elegant but simple negative feedback loop, orchestrating adaptation to stressors among the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands, needs to be updated. Research in the last two decades shows that important bidirectional signaling between the HPA axis and intestinal mucosa modulates brain function and neurochemistry, including effects on glucocorticoid hormones and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The intestinal microbiome in earliest life, which is seeded by the vaginal microbiome during delivery, programs the development of the HPA axis in a critical developmental window, determining stress sensitivity and HPA function as well as immune system development. The crosstalk between the HPA and the Microbiome Gut Brain Axis (MGBA) is particularly high in the hippocampus, the most consistently disrupted neural region in persons with schizophrenia. Animal models suggest that the MGBA remains influential on behavior and physiology across developmental stages, including the perinatal window, early childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Understanding the role of the microbiome on critical risk related stressors may enhance or transform of understanding of the origins of schizophrenia and offer new approaches to increase resilience against stress effects for preventing and treating schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number629
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2020


  • brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • cortisol
  • development
  • microbiome
  • schizophrenia
  • stress


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