McMaster University

Medical Sciences
Graduate Program

Scope of Search

Wolfgang Kunze

Wolfgang Kunze

Associate Professor

Research Interests

Our core interest is gut-brain neurophysiology and sensory processing in health, disease and aging. We use biophysical, biochemical, electrophysiological and computational modeling techniques to study primary afferent neurons intrinsic to the gut. We aim to understand how mechanical and chemical sensory signals from luminal microorganisms or food are processed by enteric neural circuits to achieve peristalsis and digestion. We have developed and published methodology to patch clamp in situ primary afferent neurons of the myenteric plexus of the enteric nervous system. This has allowed us to characterize these cells functions in the animal species most commonly used in experimental models of gut pathology.

Our ongoing studies include neuron responses to signals from biologicals such as beneficial bacteria and their molecules. We are presently studying how the enteric and central nervous system communicate with a view to identifying the neural codes through which beneficial bacteria and molecules change behaviour and improve brain function, especially in the aged.

Our lab has very productive collaborations with other research groups in Canada and China. We have been fortunate to collaborate with the Bienenstock, Forsythe, Huizinga and Foster labs at McMaster University, and the Liu lab in the Department of Physiology, Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Mental Disorders, China.

My fundamental aim is to provide the science and mechanistic models to facilitate the discovery of new, safer treatments for disorders of the peripheral and central nervous systems.


Brain-Body Institute
St. Joseph's Healthcare

telephone: (905) 525-9140 ext. 32277

Program Area

Physiology & Pharmacology

Research Focus

Gut-brain neurophysiology and sensory processing in health, disease and aging

Selected Publications

  • Al-Nedawi, K., Mian, M. F., Hossain, N., Karimi, K., Mao, Y. K., Forsythe, P., Min, K. K., Stanisz, A. M., Kunze, W. A. and Bienenstock, J. (2015). "Gut commensal microvesicles reproduce parent bacterial signals to host immune and enteric nervous systems." FASEB J, 29(2): 684-695.
    Gong, L., Gao, F., Li, J., Li, J., Yu, X., Ma, X., Zheng, W., Cui, S., Liu, K., Zhang, M., Kunze, W. and Liu, C. Y. (2015). "Oxytocin-induced membrane hyperpolarization in pain-sensitive dorsal root ganglia neurons mediated by Ca/nNOS/NO/K pathway." Neuroscience, DOI = 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.12.058; In Press.
    Li, J., Xue, B., Han, T., Huang, K., Gong, L., Ma, X., Liu, K., Cui, S., Zhang, M., Kunze, W. and Liu, C. (2015). "Oxytocin down-regulates mesenteric afferent sensitivity via the enteric OTR/nNOS/NO/KATP pathway in rat." Neurogastroenterol Motil, 27(1): 51-62.
    McVey Neufeld, K. A., Perez-Burgos, A., Mao, Y. K., Bienenstock, J. and Kunze, W. A. (2015). "The gut microbiome restores intrinsic and extrinsic nerve function in germ-free mice accompanied by changes in calbindin." Neurogastroenterol Motil, DOI = 10.1111/nmo.12534; In Press.
    Huizinga, J. D., Chen, J. H., Fang Zhu, Y., Pawelka, A., McGinn, R. J., Bardakjian, B. L., Parsons, S. P., Kunze, W. A., Wu, R. Y., Bercik, P., Khoshdel, A., Chen, S., Yin, S., Zhang, Q., Yu, Y., Gao, Q., Li, K., Hu, X., Zarate, N., Collins, P., Pistilli, M., Ma, J., Zhang, R. and Chen, D. (2014). "The origin of segmentation motor activity in the intestine." Nat Commun, 5: 3326.
    Perez-Burgos, A., Mao, Y. K., Bienenstock, J. and Kunze, W. A. (2014). "The gut-brain axis rewired: adding a functional vagal nicotinic "sensory synapse"." FASEB J, DOI = 10.1096/fj.13-245282; In Press.
    Zhu, Y. F., Wang, X. Y., Lowie, B. J., Parsons, S., White, L., Kunze, W., Pawelka, A. and Huizinga, J. D. (2014). "Enteric sensory neurons communicate with interstitial cells of Cajal to affect pacemaker activity in the small intestine." Pflugers Arch, 466(7): 1467-1475.
    Bienenstock, J., Buck, R. H., Linke, H., Forsythe, P., Stanisz, A. M. and Kunze, W. A. (2013). "Fucosylated but Not Sialylated Milk Oligosaccharides Diminish Colon Motor Contractions." PLoS ONE, 8(10): e76236.
    Forsythe, P. and Kunze, W. A. (2013). "Voices from within: gut microbes and the CNS." Cell Mol Life Sci, 70(1): 55-69.
    Khoshdel, A., Verdu, E. F., Kunze, W., McLean, P., Bergonzelli, G. and Huizinga, J. D. (2013). "Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 inhibits AH neuron excitability." Neurogastroenterol Motil, 25(7): e478-484.
    Mao, Y. K., Kasper, D. L., Wang, B., Forsythe, P., Bienenstock, J. and Kunze, W. A. (2013). "Bacteroides fragilis polysaccharide A is necessary and sufficient for acute activation of intestinal sensory neurons." Nat Commun, 4: 1465.
    McClemens, J., Kim, J. J., Wang, H., Mao, Y. K., Collins, M., Kunze, W., Bienenstock, J., Forsythe, P. and Khan, W. I. (2013). "Lactobacillus rhamnosus Ingestion Promotes Innate Host Defense in an Enteric Parasitic Infection." Clin Vaccine Immunol, 20(6): 818-826.
    McVey Neufeld, K. A., Mao, Y. K., Bienenstock, J., Foster, J. A. and Kunze, W. A. (2013). "The microbiome is essential for normal gut intrinsic primary afferent neuron excitability in the mouse." Neurogastroenterol Motil, 25(2): 183-e188.
    Perez-Burgos, A., Wang, B., Mao, Y. K., Mistry, B., Neufeld, K. A., Bienenstock, J. and Kunze, W. (2013). "Psychoactive bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus (JB-1) elicits rapid frequency facilitation in vagal afferents." Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol, 304(2): G211-220.
    Wu, R. Y., Pasyk, M., Wang, B., Forsythe, P., Bienenstock, J., Mao, Y. K., Sharma, P., Stanisz, A. M. and Kunze, W. A. (2013). "Spatiotemporal maps reveal regional differences in the effects on gut motility for Lactobacillus reuteri and rhamnosus strains." Neurogastroenterol Motil, 25(3): e205-214.