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Patients with familial adenomatous polyposis harbor colonic biofilms containing tumorigenic bacteria

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Science  02 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6375, pp. 592-597
DOI: 10.1126/science.aah3648

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Biofilms provide refuge for cancerous bacteria

Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) causes benign polyps along the colon. If left untreated, FAP leads to a high incidence of colon cancer. To understand how polyps influence tumor formation, Dejea et al. examined the colonic mucosa of FAP patients. They discovered biofilms containing the carcinogenic versions of the bacterial species Escherichia coli and Bacteroides fragilis. Colon tissue from FAP patients exhibited greater expression of two bacterial genes that produce secreted oncotoxins. Studies in mice showed that specific bacteria could work together to induce colon inflammation and tumor formation.

Science, this issue p. 592

Abstract

Individuals with sporadic colorectal cancer (CRC) frequently harbor abnormalities in the composition of the gut microbiome; however, the microbiota associated with precancerous lesions in hereditary CRC remains largely unknown. We studied colonic mucosa of patients with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), who develop benign precursor lesions (polyps) early in life. We identified patchy bacterial biofilms composed predominately of Escherichia coli and Bacteroides fragilis. Genes for colibactin (clbB) and Bacteroides fragilis toxin (bft), encoding secreted oncotoxins, were highly enriched in FAP patients’ colonic mucosa compared to healthy individuals. Tumor-prone mice cocolonized with E. coli (expressing colibactin), and enterotoxigenic B. fragilis showed increased interleukin-17 in the colon and DNA damage in colonic epithelium with faster tumor onset and greater mortality, compared to mice with either bacterial strain alone. These data suggest an unexpected link between early neoplasia of the colon and tumorigenic bacteria.

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