The gut microbiota, kynurenine pathway, and immune system interaction in the development of brain cancer

Mona Dehhaghi, Hamed Kazemi Shariat Panahi, Benjamin Heng, Gilles J. Guillemin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
100 Downloads (Pure)


Human gut microbiota contains a large, complex, dynamic microbial community of approximately 1014 microbes from more than 1,000 microbial species, i.e., equivalent to 4 × 106 genes. Numerous evidence links gut microbiota with human health and diseases. Importantly, gut microbiota is involved in the development and function of the brain through a bidirectional pathway termed as the gut-brain axis. Interaction between gut microbiota and immune responses can modulate the development of neuroinflammation and cancer diseases in the brain. With respect of brain cancer, gut microbiota could modify the levels of antioxidants, amyloid protein and lipopolysaccharides, arginase 1, arginine, cytochrome C, granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor signaling (GM-CSF), IL-4, IL-6, IL-13, IL-17A, interferon gamma (IFN-γ), reactive oxygen species (ROS), reactive nitrogen species (e.g., nitric oxide and peroxynitrite), short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), tryptophan, and tumor necrosis factor-β (TGF-β). Through these modifications, gut microbiota can modulate apoptosis, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), autophagy, caspases activation, DNA integrity, microglia dysbiosis, mitochondria permeability, T-cell proliferation and functions, the signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) pathways, and tumor cell proliferation and metastasis. The outcome of such interventions could be either oncolytic or oncogenic. This review scrutinizes the oncogenic and oncolytic effects of gut microbiota by classifying the modification mechanisms into (i) amino acid deprivation (arginine and tryptophan); (ii) kynurenine pathway; (iii) microglia dysbiosis; and (iv) myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). By delineating the complexity of the gut-microbiota-brain-cancer axis, this review aims to help the research on the development of novel therapeutic strategies that may aid the efficient eradication of brain cancers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number562812
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - 19 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • 3-dioxygenase-1
  • anti-tumor T-cells
  • glioblastoma
  • gut microbiota
  • indoleamine 2
  • kynurenine pathway
  • myeloid-derived suppressor cells
  • tryptophan


Dive into the research topics of 'The gut microbiota, kynurenine pathway, and immune system interaction in the development of brain cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this