Chapter 6 : Microbial Endocrinology in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease

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Microbial endocrinology represents the intersection of two seemingly disparate fields: microbiology and neurobiology ( Fig 1 ). The field of microbial endocrinology was founded in 1993 when the term was first coined by Lyte ( ) based on experimental data obtained the prior year ( ). Although the concept of microbial endocrinology was founded just over 2 decades ago ( ), there has been published evidence by numerous investigators over the preceding 6 decades going back to 1930 ( ), that demonstrate the validity of uniting the fields of microbiology and neurobiology as a conceptual framework with which to understand interactions between the microbiota and the host in the pathogenesis of infectious disease. It should be appreciated, however, that approaching microbiology through an interdisciplinary “lens” such as microbial endocrinology has relevance outside of the field of infectious disease. As will be discussed in this article, the ability of microorganisms to not only respond to, but also produce the very same neurochemicals that are more typically thought in the context of mammalian systems, means that host interactions with microorganisms are much more interactive than previously envisioned. This is the basis of microbial endocrinology ( ). As such, microbial endocrinology has found applications outside of infectious disease (where it has its developmental roots) including other aspects of host health such as the ability of the gut microbiota to influence the brain and behavior through the microbiota-gut-brain axis ( ). This review will address how and why the fields of microbiology and neurobiology should intersect and what the relevance of this interaction is for infectious disease.

Citation: Lyte M. 2016. Microbial Endocrinology in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease, p 137-168. In Kudva I, Cornick N, Plummer P, Zhang Q, Nicholson T, Bannantine J, Bellaire B (ed),

Virulence Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogens, Fifth Edition

. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.VMBF-0021-2015
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Figure 1

The conceptual basis of microbial endocrinology represents the intersection of microbiology and neurobiology and is based on the commonly shared neurochemicals that form the evolutionary basis of cell-to-cell communication in vertebrates (see text for in-depth discussion).

Citation: Lyte M. 2016. Microbial Endocrinology in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease, p 137-168. In Kudva I, Cornick N, Plummer P, Zhang Q, Nicholson T, Bannantine J, Bellaire B (ed),

Virulence Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogens, Fifth Edition

. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.VMBF-0021-2015
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Figure 2

The chemical biosynthetic pathway for catecholamines utilizes the same pathway (substrates and cofactors) in microorganisms as it does in animals ( ). Courtesy of NEUROtiker, licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/).

Citation: Lyte M. 2016. Microbial Endocrinology in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease, p 137-168. In Kudva I, Cornick N, Plummer P, Zhang Q, Nicholson T, Bannantine J, Bellaire B (ed),

Virulence Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogens, Fifth Edition

. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.VMBF-0021-2015
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Figure 3

The plant metabolite -coumaroylnorepinephrine is synthesized in response to stress and infection. This compound as well as -coumaroyldopamine are hydroxycinnamic acid amides of norepinephrine (box designates norepinephrine part of the structure) and dopamine, respectively, and have been shown to have direct antimicrobial activity against the plant pathogen ( ).

Citation: Lyte M. 2016. Microbial Endocrinology in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease, p 137-168. In Kudva I, Cornick N, Plummer P, Zhang Q, Nicholson T, Bannantine J, Bellaire B (ed),

Virulence Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogens, Fifth Edition

. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.VMBF-0021-2015
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Image of Figure 4
Figure 4

The evolution-based neurochemical signaling pathway between microorganism and host means that a neurochemical(s) produced by the host can influence the microorganism , and at the same time a neurochemical(s) produced by the microorganism can, in turn, influence the host . As shown in part B, diet plays a crucial part in the latter because it provides the substrates and cofactors necessary for the microorganism to produce a specific neurochemical according to a biosynthetic pathway that is the same as that found in the host.

Citation: Lyte M. 2016. Microbial Endocrinology in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease, p 137-168. In Kudva I, Cornick N, Plummer P, Zhang Q, Nicholson T, Bannantine J, Bellaire B (ed),

Virulence Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogens, Fifth Edition

. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/microbiolspec.VMBF-0021-2015
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