. The human microbiome has a major role in the uptake and handling of nutrients, medications, and toxins; and is of great immune system relevance. Evidence is mounting that it can affect aspects of neurologic function, brain activity, and behavior via the ?gut-brain-axis?1-3. New propositions are that environmental exposures such as pesticides, metals, and air pollution influence the microbiome and the human immune system and that the microbiome plays a role in Parkinson?s disease (PD) 2,4-8. Here we propose the novel hypothesis that a) the microbiome is affected by chronic environmental exposures, specifically pesticides; and b) an altered gut microbiome composition or function contributes to the progression of neurodegeneration in PD. PD - a progressive neurodegenerative disease ? has various non-motor symptoms including gastro-intestinal (GI) features such as constipation and gastroparesis. Its pathologic hallmarks, namely Lewy bodies and ?-synuclein aggregates, have been found in the gut?s enteric nervous system of PD patients along with inflammation 9-11. The role of the gut microbiome in PD is underexplored and no study has addressed whether toxins influence neurodegeneration via the microbiome. We previously developed a resource to investigate long-term exposure to pesticides in humans, i.e. a geographic information system (GIS) model based on records from the California state pesticide use reporting (PUR) system 12. Capitalizing on our unique PUR exposure assessment tool and the Parkinson's Disease Susceptibility Genes and Pesticides Study (PEG; R01 ES-010544) resources, we have joined forces with Drs. Mayer and Jacob (UCLA Division of Digestive Diseases) - experts in brain-gut connection microbiome research - and propose to analyze the gut microbiome of 400 PD patients and 600 (200 age-matched household & 400 age-sex matched community) controls using 16S ribosomal RNA to assess relative abundance of microbiota. Specifically, we will assess composition and function (using the predicted metagenome) in pesticide exposed vs. non-exposed controls and PD patients of different progression phenotypes. We will newly enroll 200 new-onset, of these 100 medication nave (MN) PD patients, to collect data on exposures, gut motility indicators, and fecal samples for metabolomics and culture based experiments (before and after starting PD medications); assess differences in relative abundances of microbes over time using 16S ribosomal RNA and shotgun metagenomics and conduct metabolomics (blood or stool) analyses for new onset PD patients (twice, longitudinally) and their household controls. We combine for this research our extensive expertise in pesticide exposure assessment and studying PD progression in community-based patients, an exceptionally well-characterized population living in a heavily pesticide exposed region, with the expertise of our UCLA GI team in brain-gut axis research and the resources of the UCLA microbiome core. Our resources provide a strong and efficient platform for addressing chronic environmental exposure to pesticides and their impacts on the gut microbiome and on neurodegeneration. This research will suggest novel pathways and prevention options for a growing elderly population with chronic environmental exposures.

Public Health Relevance

We will study the impact of high and chronic pesticide exposures in a rural environment on the gut microbiome of Parkinson?s disease (PD) patients, their household members and healthy community controls and its contributions to progression of PD. This research will be highly efficient due to our access to an existing cohort of PD patients and unaffected community controls - who live in a heavily agriculturally pesticide exposed area of California ? and a network of rural health care providers. Our research may discovery novel etiological pathways for pesticide action through the microbiome, propose interventions to prevent PD progression, and change public policy and pesticide regulations.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Neurological, Aging and Musculoskeletal Epidemiology (NAME)
Program Officer
Dzierlenga, Anika Lin
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California Los Angeles
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
Los Angeles
United States
Zip Code