Depression is the most prevalent mental disorder in the world associated with huge socio-economic consequences. While depressive-related symptoms are well known, the molecular mechanisms underlying disease pathophysiology and progression remain largely unknown. The gut microbiota (GM) is emerging as a key regulator of the central nervous system homeostasis by exerting fundamental immune and metabolic functions. In turn, the brain influences the intestinal microbial composition through neuroendocrine signals, within the so-called gut microbiota-brain axis. The balance of this bidirectional crosstalk is important to ensure neurogenesis, preserve the integrity of the blood-brain barrier and avoid neuroinflammation. Conversely, dysbiosis and gut permeability negatively affect brain development, behavior, and cognition. Furthermore, although not fully defined yet, changes in the GM composition in depressed patients are reported to influence the pharmacokinetics of common antidepressants by affecting their absorption, metabolism, and activity. Similarly, neuropsychiatric drugs may shape in turn the GM with an impact on the efficacy and toxicity of the pharmacological intervention itself. Consequently, strategies aimed at re-establishing the correct homeostatic gut balance (i.e., prebiotics, probiotics, fecal microbiota transplantation, and dietary interventions) represent an innovative approach to improve the pharmacotherapy of depression. Among these, probiotics and the Mediterranean diet, alone or in combination with the standard of care, hold promise for clinical application. Therefore, the disclosure of the intricate network between GM and depression will give precious insights for innovative diagnostic and therapeutic approaches towards depression, with profound implications for drug development and clinical practice.
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