The prenatal and early postnatal stages represent a critical time window for human brain development. Interestingly, this window partly overlaps with the maturation of the intestinal flora (microbiota) that play a critical role in the bidirectional communication between the central and the enteric nervous systems (microbiota-gut-brain axis). The microbial composition has important influences on general health and the development of several organ systems, such as the gastrointestinal tract, the immune system, and also the brain. Clinical studies have shown that microbiota alterations are associated with a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders including autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. In this review, we dissect the link between these neuropsychiatric disorders and the intestinal microbiota by focusing on their effect on synaptic pruning, a vital process in the maturation and establishing efficient functioning of the brain. We discuss in detail how synaptic pruning is dysregulated differently in the aforementioned neuropsychiatric disorders and how it can be influenced by dysbiosis and/or changes in the intestinal microbiota composition. We also review that the improvement in the intestinal microbiota composition by a change in diet, probiotics, prebiotics, or fecal microbiota transplantation may play a role in improving neuropsychiatric functioning, which can be at least partly explained via the optimization of synaptic pruning and neuronal connections. Altogether, the demonstration of the microbiota’s influence on brain function via microglial-induced synaptic pruning addresses the possibility that the manipulation of microbiota-immune crosstalk represents a promising strategy for treating neuropsychiatric disorders.
© 2020 The Authors. Journal of Neuroscience Research published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.