Bacteria pathogens drive host colonic epithelial cell promoter hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes in colorectal cancer

Colorectal Cancer

Microbiome. 2020 Jul 16;8(1):108. doi: 10.1186/s40168-020-00847-4.


BACKGROUND: Altered microbiome composition and aberrant promoter hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes (TSGs) are two important hallmarks of colorectal cancer (CRC). Here we performed concurrent 16S rRNA gene sequencing and methyl-CpG binding domain-based capture sequencing in 33 tissue biopsies (5 normal colonic mucosa tissues, 4 pairs of adenoma and adenoma-adjacent tissues, and 10 pairs of CRC and CRC-adjacent tissues) to identify significant associations between TSG promoter hypermethylation and CRC-associated bacteria, followed by functional validation of the methylation-associated bacteria.

RESULTS: Fusobacterium nucleatum and Hungatella hathewayi were identified as the top two methylation-regulating bacteria. Targeted analysis on bona fide TSGs revealed that H. hathewayi and Streptococcus spp. significantly correlated with CDX2 and MLH1 promoter hypermethylation, respectively. Mechanistic validation with cell-line and animal models revealed that F. nucleatum and H. hathewayi upregulated DNA methyltransferase. H. hathewayi inoculation also promoted colonic epithelial cell proliferation in germ-free and conventional mice.

CONCLUSION: Our integrative analysis revealed previously unknown epigenetic regulation of TSGs in host cells through inducing DNA methyltransferase by F. nucleatum and H. hathewayi, and established the latter as CRC-promoting bacteria. Video abstract.