The Microbiota-Inflammasome Hypothesis of Major Depression

Antonio Inserra, Geraint Rogers, Julio Licinio, Ma-Li Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


We propose the “microbiota-inflammasome” hypothesis of major depressive disorder (MDD, a mental illness affecting the way a person feels and thinks, characterized by long-lasting feelings of sadness). We hypothesize that pathological shifts in gut microbiota composition (dysbiosis) caused by stress and gut conditions result in the upregulation of pro-inflammatory pathways mediated by the Nod-like receptors family pyrin domain containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome (an intracellular platform involved in the activation of inflammatory processes). This upregulation exacerbates depressive symptomatology and further compounds gut dysbiosis. In this review we describe MDD/chronic stress-induced changes in: 1) NLRP3 inflammasome; 2) gut microbiota; and 3) metabolic pathways; and how inflammasome signaling may affect depressive-like behavior and gut microbiota composition. The implication is that novel therapeutic strategies could emerge for MDD and co-morbid conditions. A number of testable predictions surface from this microbiota-gut-inflammasome-brain hypothesis of MDD, using approaches that modulate gut microbiota composition via inflammasome modulation, fecal microbiota transplantation, psychobiotics supplementation, or dietary change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1800027
Number of pages11
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • depression
  • dysbiosis
  • gut microbiota
  • inflammasome
  • NLRP3
  • probiotics


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