Metabolic and Microbiota Measures as Peripheral Biomarkers in Major Depressive Disorder

Rachael Horne, Jane A. Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Advances in understanding the role of the microbiome in physical and mental health are at the forefront of medical research and hold potential to have a direct impact on precision medicine approaches. In the past 7 years, we have studied the role of microbiota-brain communication on behavior in mouse models using germ-free mice, mice exposed to antibiotics, and healthy specific pathogen free mice. Through our work and that of others, we have seen an amazing increase in our knowledge of how bacteria signal to the brain and the implications this has for psychiatry. Gut microbiota composition and function are influenced both by genetics, age, sex, diet, life experiences, and many other factors of psychiatric and bodily disorders and thus may act as potential biomarkers of the gut-brain axis that could be used in psychiatry and co-morbid conditions. There is a particular need in major depressive disorder and other mental illness to identify biomarkers that can stratify patients into more homogeneous groups to provide better treatment and for development of new therapeutic approaches. Peripheral outcome measures of host-microbe bidirectional communication have significant translational value as biomarkers. Enabling stratification of clinical populations, based on individual biological differences, to predict treatment response to pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions. Here we consider the links between co-morbid metabolic syndrome and depression, focusing on biomarkers including leptin and ghrelin in combination with assessing gut microbiota composition, as a potential tool to help identify individual differences in depressed population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number513
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - Oct 22 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • ghrelin
  • gut-brain axis
  • leptin
  • major depression (MDD)
  • microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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