Computational framework for exploring the interplay of diet and gut microbiota in autism

Meghana Venkata Palukuri , Shruti Shivakumar , Swagatika Sahoo , Raghunathan Rengaswamy , bioRxiv Preprint (2018) .


Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to the set of complex neurological disorders characterized by repetitive behaviour. The reported occurrence of abnormal gut bacteria, along with prevalence of gastrointestinal disorders in ASD indicate its strong correlation with the gut microflora. Our study aims to understand the role of diet and gut bacteria in ASD via an integrated constraint-based and PBPK model. Genome scale models of five major gut bacteria, which were reported to be associated with ASD, were integrated with the human host, i.e., the combined small intestinal enterocyte and neuronal brain model. Simultaneously, a permeability-limited two sub compartment PBPK model was developed to determine the distribution of bacteria-derived toxins in the body. The important results include, (i) inclusion of probiotics into the diet of autistic case restores gut balance, majorly seen as a result of reduced oxidative stress in the brain and the gut, (ii) microbiome and diet together mediate host metabolism in autism, majorly via the nucleotide, central carbon, amino acid, and reactive oxygen species metabolisms, and (iii) gut bacterial-specific secretions contribute to autistic metabotype. Thus, the presented integrated model is the first ever quantitative model, providing a mechanistic basis for autism pathogenesis, capturing known biomarkers, as well as, highlighting the potential of novel dietary modifications in alleviating the symptoms of autism.