Gene, environment, and brain-gut interactions in irritable bowel syndrome

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The genetic predisposition and influence of environment may underlie in the pathogenesis and/or pathophysiology of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This phenomenon, gene x environment interaction together with brain-gut interactions is emerging area to be clarified in IBS research. Earlier studies focused on candidate genes of neurotransmitters, cytokines, and growth factors. Among them, some studies but not all studies revealed association between phenotypes of IBS and 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)-related genes, noradrenaline-related genes, and cytokine genes. Recent prospective cohort study showed that genes encoding immune and adhesion molecules were associated with post-infectious etiology of IBS. Psychosocial stressors and intraluminal facotrs especially microrbiota are keys to develop IBS. IBS patients may have abnormal gut microbiota as well as increased organic acids. IBS is disorder that relates to brain-gut interactions, emotional dysregulation, and illness behaviors. Brain imaging with or without combination of visceral stimulation enables us to depict the detailed information of brain-gut interactions. In IBS patients, thalamus, insula, anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, and brainstem were more activated in response to visceral stimulation than controls. Corticotropin-releasing hormone and 5-HT are the candidate substances which regulate exaggerated brain-gut response. In conclusion, gene x environment interaction together with brain-gut interactions may play crucial roles in IBS development. Further fundamental research on this issue is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-115
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Australia)
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Apr


  • Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)
  • Brain-gut interactions
  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)
  • Environment
  • Gene
  • Gut microbiota
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Serotonin
  • Serotonin transporter


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