ABSTRACT

The gut and brain are constantly communicating and influencing each other through neural, endocrine and immune signals in an interaction referred to as the gut–brain axis. Within this communication system, the gastrointestinal tract, including the gut microbiota, sends information on energy status to the brain, which, after integrating these and other inputs, transmits feedback to the gastrointestinal tract. This allows the regulation of food intake and other physiological processes occurring in the gastrointestinal tract, including motility, secretion, digestion and absorption. Although extensive literature is available on the mechanisms governing the communication between the gut and the brain in mammals, studies on this axis in other vertebrates are scarce and often limited to a single species, which may not be representative for obtaining conclusions for an entire group. This Review aims to compile the available information on the gut–brain axis in birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, with a special focus on its involvement in food intake regulation and, to a lesser extent, in digestive processes. Additionally, we will identify gaps of knowledge that need to be filled in order to better understand the functioning and physiological significance of such an axis in non-mammalian vertebrates.

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