Advances in nutrition
The gut-brain axis (GBA) is a bilateral communication network between the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the central nervous system. The essential amino acid tryptophan contributes to the normal growth and health of both animals and humans and, importantly, exerts modulatory functions at multiple levels of the GBA. Tryptophan is the sole precursor of serotonin, which is a key monoamine neurotransmitter participating in the modulation of central neurotransmission and enteric physiological function. ⋯ We start by outlining existing knowledge on tryptophan metabolism, including serotonin synthesis and degradation pathways of the host, and summarize recent advances in demonstrating the influence of the gut microbiota on tryptophan metabolism. The latest evidence revealing those mechanisms by which the gut microbiota modulates tryptophan metabolism, with subsequent effects on brain function, is reviewed. Finally, the potential modulation of intestinal tryptophan metabolism as a therapeutic option for brain and GI functional disorders is also discussed.