The main goal of my project is to decipher the role of the microbiota-gut-brain axis in typical and atypical brain development with a special focus on bacterial motifs called peptidoglycans.
Environmental influences during early life, like the postnatal microbial colonization process, can have a severe impact on the development, structure, and function of the brain. Mice raised under germ-free (GF) conditions display increased motor activity and decreased anxiety-like behavior compared to mice with normal gut microbiota (specific pathogen-free; SPF). A mechanism involved in gut-microbiota-brain signaling is the activation of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) within the developing brain. These receptors can recognize microbial components, for example, Peptidoglycans (PGNs) (components of the bacterial cell wall). Hence the overarching goal of my project is to investigate the influence of gut-derived microbial molecules on neuronal development, plasticity, and behavior.