Diet-induced dysbiosis of the maternal gut microbiome in early life programming of neurodevelopmental disorders

Claudia M. Di Gesù, Lisa M. Matz, Shelly A. Buffington

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The maternal gut microbiome plays a critical role in fetal and early postnatal development, shaping fundamental processes including immune maturation and brain development, among others. Consequently, it also contributes to fetal programming of health and disease. Over the last decade, epidemiological studies and work in preclinical animal models have begun to uncover a link between dysbiosis of the maternal gut microbiome and neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring. Neurodevelopmental disorders are caused by both genetic and environmental factors, and their interactions; however, clinical heterogeneity, phenotypic variability, and comorbidities make identification of underlying mechanisms difficult. Among environmental factors, exposure to maternal obesity in utero confers a significant increase in risk for neurodevelopmental disorders. Obesogenic diets in humans, non-human primates, and rodents induce functional modifications in maternal gut microbiome composition, which animal studies suggest are causally related to adverse mental health outcomes in offspring. Here, we review evidence linking maternal diet-induced gut dysbiosis to neurodevelopmental disorders and discuss how it could affect pre- and early postnatal brain development. We are hopeful that this burgeoning field of research will revolutionize antenatal care by leading to accessible prophylactic strategies, such as prenatal probiotics, to improve mental health outcomes in children affected by maternal diet-induced obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalNeuroscience Research
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Fetal programming
  • Gut microbiome
  • Maternal diet
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Prenatal probiotics
  • Social behavior
  • Social determinants of health
  • Vertical transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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