bims-instec Biomed News
on Intestinal stem cells and chemoresistance in colon cancer and intestinal regeneration
Issue of 2024‒07‒21
thirteen papers selected by
Maria-Virginia Giolito, Université Catholique de Louvain

  1. bioRxiv. 2024 Jul 11. pii: 2024.07.11.603019. [Epub ahead of print]
      The single-layer epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract is a dynamically renewing tissue that ensures nutrient absorption, secretory and barrier functions and is involved in immune responses. The basis for this homeostatic renewal is the Wnt signaling pathway. Blocking this pathway can lead to epithelial damage, while its abnormal activation can result in the development of intestinal tumors. In this study, we investigated the dynamics of intestinal epithelial cells and tumorigenesis using a conditional mouse model. Using single-cell and bulk RNA sequencing and histological analysis, we elucidated the cellular responses following the loss of specific cell types. We focused on the fate of cells in the lower parts of the intestinal crypts and the development of colon adenomas. By partially inactivating the transcription factor Tcf4, a key effector of the Wnt signaling pathway, we analyzed the regeneration of isolated hyperproliferative foci (crypts). Our results suggest that the damaged epithelium is not restored by a specific regeneration program associated with oncofetal gene production, but rather by a standard homeostatic renewal pathway. Moreover, disruption of Tcf4 in secretory progenitors resulted in a significant shift in the cell lineage from Paneth cells to goblet cells, characterized by morphological changes and loss of Paneth cell-specific genes. We also found that hyperactivation of the Wnt signaling pathway in colonic adenomas correlated with the upregulation of genes typical of Paneth cells in the intestine, followed by the emergence of secretory tumor cells producing the Wnt3 ligand. The absence of Tcf4 led to a phenotypic shift of the tumor cells towards goblet cells. Our study presents a new model of epithelial regeneration based on the genetically driven partial elimination of intestinal crypts. We highlight the critical role of Tcf4 in the control of cell lineage decisions in the intestinal epithelium and colon tumors.
  2. J Lipid Res. 2024 Jul 12. pii: S0022-2275(24)00056-7. [Epub ahead of print]65(7): 100551
      Intestinal disease is one of the earliest manifestations of cystic fibrosis (CF) in children and is closely tied to deficits in growth and nutrition, both of which are directly linked to future mortality. Patients are treated aggressively with pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy and a high-fat diet to circumvent fat malabsorption, but this does not reverse growth and nutritional defects. We hypothesized that defects in chylomicron production could explain why CF body weights and nutrition are so resistant to clinical treatments. We used gold standard intestinal lipid absorption and metabolism approaches, including mouse mesenteric lymph cannulation, in vivo chylomicron secretion kinetics, transmission electron microscopy, small intestinal organoids, and chylomicron metabolism assays to test this hypothesis. In mice expressing the G542X mutation in cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR-/- mice), we find that defective FFA trafficking across the epithelium into enterocytes drives a chylomicron formation defect. Furthermore, G542X mice secrete small, triglyceride-poor chylomicrons into the lymph and blood. These defective chylomicrons are cleared into extraintestinal tissues at ∼10-fold faster than WT chylomicrons. This defect in FFA absorption resulting in dysfunctional chylomicrons cannot be explained by steatorrhea or pancreatic insufficiency and is maintained in primary small intestinal organoids treated with micellar lipids. These studies suggest that the ultrahigh-fat diet that most people with CF are counselled to follow may instead make steatorrhea and malabsorption defects worse by overloading the absorptive capacity of the CF small intestine.
    Keywords:  chylomicrons; cystic fibrosis; dietary fat; fatty acid transport; intestine; lipid metabolism
  3. J Vis Exp. 2024 Jun 28.
      Single cell transcriptomics has revolutionized our understanding of the cell biology of the human body. State-of-the-art human small intestinal organoid cultures provide ex vivo model systems that bridge the gap between animal models and clinical studies. The application of single cell transcriptomics to human intestinal organoid (HIO) models is revealing previously unrecognized cell biology, biochemistry, and physiology of the GI tract. The advanced single cell transcriptomics platforms use microfluidic partitioning and barcoding to generate cDNA libraries. These barcoded cDNAs can be easily sequenced by next generation sequencing platforms and used by various visualization tools to generate maps. Here, we describe methods to culture and differentiate human small intestinal HIOs in different formats and procedures for isolating viable cells from these formats that are suitable for use in single-cell transcriptional profiling platforms. These protocols and procedures facilitate the use of small intestinal HIOs to obtain an increased understanding of the cellular response of human intestinal epithelium at the transcriptional level in the context of a variety of different environments.
  4. Am J Cancer Res. 2024 ;14(6): 2790-2804
      Metastasis is a principal factor in the poor prognosis of colorectal cancer. Recent studies have found microbial metabolites regulate colorectal cancer metastasis. By analyzing metabolomics data, we identified an essential fecal metabolite citraconate that potentially promotes colorectal cancer metastasis. Next, we tried to reveal its effect on colorectal cancer and the underlying mechanism. Firstly, the response of colorectal cancer cells (HCT116 and MC38 cells) to citraconate was assessed by Cell Counting Kit-8 assay, clonogenic assay, transwell migration and invasion assay. Moreover, we utilized an intra-splenic injection model to evaluate the effect of citraconate on colorectal cancer liver metastasis in vivo. Then molecular approaches were employed, including RNA sequencing, mass spectrometry-based metabolomics, western blot, quantitative real-time PCR, cell ferrous iron colorimetric assay and intracellular malondialdehyde measurement. In vitro, citraconate promotes the growth of colorectal cancer cells. In vivo, citraconate aggravated liver metastasis of colorectal cancer. Mechanistically, downstream genes of NRF2, NQO1, GCLC, and GCLM high expression induced by citraconate resulted in resistance to ferroptosis of colorectal cancer cells. In summary, citraconate promotes the malignant progression of colorectal cancer through NRF2-mediated ferroptosis resistance in colorectal cancer cells. Furthermore, our study indicates that fecal metabolite may be crucial in colorectal cancer development.
    Keywords:  Citraconate; colorectal cancer; ferroptosis; malignant progression
  5. Life Sci. 2024 Jul 12. pii: S0024-3205(24)00504-6. [Epub ahead of print] 122914
      AIMS: Colorectal cancer (CRC) remains a major global health issue, with metastatic cases presenting poor prognosis despite advances in chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Irinotecan, a key drug for advanced CRC treatment, faces challenges owing to the development of resistance. This study aimed to understand the mechanisms underlying irinotecan resistance in colorectal cancer.MAIN METHODS: We created a cell line resistant to irinotecan using HT29 cells. These resistant cells were utilized to investigate the role of the CDK7-MDK axis. We employed bulk RNA sequencing, conducted in vivo experiments with mice, and analyzed patient tissues to examine the effects of the CDK7-MDK axis on the cellular response to irinotecan.
    KEY FINDINGS: Our findings revealed that HT29 cells resistant to irinotecan, a crucial colorectal cancer medication, exhibited significant phenotypic and molecular alterations compared to their parental counterparts, including elevated stem cell characteristics and increased levels of cytokines and drug resistance proteins. Notably, CDK7 expression was substantially higher in these resistant cells, and targeting CDK7 effectively decreased their survival and tumor growth, enhancing irinotecan sensitivity. RNA-seq analysis indicated that suppression of CDK7 in irinotecan-resistant HT29 cells significantly reduced Midkine (MDK) expression. Decreased CDK7 and MDK levels, achieved through siRNA and the CDK7 inhibitor THZ1, enhanced the sensitivity of resistant HT29 cells to irinotecan.
    SIGNIFICANCE: Our study sheds light on how CDK7 and MDK influence irinotecan resistance in colorectal and highlights the potential of MDK-targeted therapies. We hypothesized that irinotecan sensitivity and overall treatment efficacy would improve by inhibiting MDK. This finding encourages a careful yet proactive investigation of MDK as a therapeutic target to enhance outcomes in colorectal cancer patients.
    Keywords:  CDK7; Chemoresistance; Colorectal cancer
  6. Sci Adv. 2024 Jul 19. 10(29): eado1218
      Cancer cells exhibit rewired transcriptional regulatory networks that promote tumor growth and survival. However, the mechanisms underlying the formation of these pathological networks remain poorly understood. Through a pan-cancer epigenomic analysis, we found that primate-specific endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are a rich source of enhancers displaying cancer-specific activity. In colorectal cancer and other epithelial tumors, oncogenic MAPK/AP1 signaling drives the activation of enhancers derived from the primate-specific ERV family LTR10. Functional studies in colorectal cancer cells revealed that LTR10 elements regulate tumor-specific expression of multiple genes associated with tumorigenesis, such as ATG12 and XRCC4. Within the human population, individual LTR10 elements exhibit germline and somatic structural variation resulting from a highly mutable internal tandem repeat region, which affects AP1 binding activity. Our findings reveal that ERV-derived enhancers contribute to transcriptional dysregulation in response to oncogenic signaling and shape the evolution of cancer-specific regulatory networks.
  7. Nat Commun. 2024 Jul 19. 15(1): 6079
      Enteric glia have been recently recognized as key components of the colonic tumor microenvironment indicating their potential role in colorectal cancer pathogenesis. Although enteric glia modulate immune responses in other intestinal diseases, their interaction with the colorectal cancer immune cell compartment remains unclear. Through a combination of single-cell and bulk RNA-sequencing, both in murine models and patients, here we find that enteric glia acquire an immunomodulatory phenotype by bi-directional communication with tumor-infiltrating monocytes. The latter direct a reactive enteric glial cell phenotypic and functional switch via glial IL-1R signaling. In turn, tumor glia promote monocyte differentiation towards pro-tumorigenic SPP1+ tumor-associated macrophages by IL-6 release. Enteric glia cell abundancy correlates with worse disease outcomes in preclinical models and colorectal cancer patients. Thereby, our study reveals a neuroimmune interaction between enteric glia and tumor-associated macrophages in the colorectal tumor microenvironment, providing insights into colorectal cancer pathogenesis.
  8. J Biomed Sci. 2024 Jul 15. 31(1): 72
      BACKGROUND: Epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) has been widely studied as a tumor antigen due to its expression in varieties of solid tumors. Moreover, the glycoprotein contributes to critical cancer-associated cellular functionalities via its extracellular (EpEX) and intracellular (EpICD) domains. In colorectal cancer (CRC), EpCAM has been implicated in the Wnt signaling pathway, as EpICD and β-Catenin are coordinately translocated to the nucleus. Once in the nucleus, EpICD transcriptionally regulates EpCAM target genes that; however, remains unclear whether Wnt signaling is modulated by EpICD activity.METHODS: Patient-derived organoids (PDOs), patient-derived xenografts (PDXs), and various CRC cell lines were used to study the roles of EpCAM and EpICD in Wnt receptor expression. Fluorescence and confocal microscopy were used to analyze tumors isolated from PDX and other xenograft models as well as CRC cell lines. EpCAM signaling was intervened with our humanized form of EpCAM neutralizing antibody, hEpAb2-6. Wnt receptor promoters under luciferase reporters were constructed to examine the effects of EpICD. Luciferase reporter assays were performed to evaluate promoter, γ-secretase and Wnt activity. Functional assays including in vivo tumor formation, organoid formation, spheroid and colony formation experiments were performed to study Wnt related phenomena. The therapeutic potential of EpCAM suppression by hEpAb2-6 was evaluated in xenograft and orthotopic models of human CRC.
    RESULTS: EpICD interacted with the promoters of Wnt receptors (FZD6 and LRP5/6) thus upregulated their transcriptional activity inducing Wnt signaling. Furthermore, activation of Wnt-pathway-associated kinases in the β-Catenin destruction complex (GSK3β and CK1) induced γ-secretase activity to augment EpICD shedding, establishing a positive-feedback loop. Our hEpAb2-6 antibody blocked EpICD-mediated upregulation of Wnt receptor expressions and conferred therapeutic benefits in both PDX and orthotopic models of human CRC.
    CONCLUSIONS: This study uncovers relevant functions of EpCAM where Wnt receptors are upregulated via the transcriptional co-factor activity of EpICD. The resultant enhancement of Wnt signaling induces γ-secretase activity further stimulating EpICD cleavage and its nuclear translocation. Our humanized anti-EpCAM antibody hEpAb2-6 blocks these mechanisms and may thereby provide therapeutic benefit in CRC.
    Keywords:  EpCAM; EpICD; Wnt receptors; Wnt signaling; hEpAb2-6
  9. Cancer Sci. 2024 Jul 16.
      Colorectal cancer (CRC) remains a significant global health concern, demanding a more profound comprehension of its molecular foundations for the development of improved therapeutic strategies. This study aimed to elucidate the role of protein phosphatase 6 (PP6), a member of the type 2A protein phosphatase family, in CRC. Protein phosphatase 6 functions as a heterotrimer with a catalytic subunit (PP6c), regulatory subunits (PP6Rs; PP6R1, PP6R2, and PP6R3), and scaffold subunits (ANKRD28, ANKRD44, and ANKRD52). Elevated PP6c expression has been identified in CRC tissues compared to normal mucosa, aligning with its potential involvement in CRC pathogenesis. PP6c knockdown resulted in decreased colony-forming ability and in vivo proliferation of various CRC cell lines. Transcriptome analysis revealed that PP6c knockdown resulted in altered expression of genes associated with cancer stemness. Notably, the PP6c-PP6R3 complex is a key player in regulating cancer stem cell (CSC) markers. Additionally, increased PP6c expression was observed in CSC-like cells induced by sphere formation, implicating the role of PP6c in CSC maintenance. This study highlights the role of PP6c in CRC and suggests that it is a potential therapeutic target disrupting a pathway critical for CRC progression and stem cell maintenance.
    Keywords:  cancer stem cell; colony formation; colorectal cancer; protein phosphatase 6; tumor growth
  10. bioRxiv. 2024 Jul 10. pii: 2024.07.06.602364. [Epub ahead of print]
      Initial landmark studies in the design of synthetic hydrogels for intestinal organoid culture identified precise matrix requirements for differentiation, namely decompression of matrix-imposed forces and supplementation of laminin. But beyond stating the necessity of laminin, organoid-laminin interactions have gone largely unstudied, as this ubiquitous requirement of exogenous laminin hinders investigation. In this work, we exploit a fast stress relaxing, boronate ester based synthetic hydrogel for the culture of intestinal organoids, and fortuitously discover that unlike all other synthetic hydrogels to date, laminin does not need to be supplemented for crypt formation. This highly defined material provides a unique opportunity to investigate laminin-organoid interactions and how it influences crypt evolution and organoid function. Via fluorescent labeling of non-canonical amino acids, we further show that adaptable boronate ester bonds increase deposition of nascent proteins, including laminin. Collectively, these results advance the understanding of how mechanical and matricellular signaling influence intestinal organoid development.
  11. FEBS J. 2024 Jul 18.
      AXIN1 and AXIN2 are homologous proteins that inhibit the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, which is frequently hyperactive in colorectal cancer. Stabilization of AXIN1 and AXIN2 by inhibiting their degradation through tankyrase (TNKS) allows the attenuation of Wnt signaling in cancer, attracting interest for potential targeted therapy. Here, we found that knockout or knockdown of AXIN2 in colorectal cancer cells increased the protein stability of AXIN1. The increase in AXIN1 overcompensated for the loss of AXIN2 with respect to protein levels; however, functionally it did not because loss of AXIN2 activated the pathway. Moreover, AXIN2 was highly essential in the context of TNKS inhibition because TNKS-targeting small-molecule inhibitors completely failed to inhibit Wnt signaling and to stabilize AXIN1 in AXIN2 knockout cells. The increased AXIN1 protein stability and the impaired stabilization by TNKS inhibitors indicated disrupted TNKS-AXIN1 regulation in AXIN2 knockout cells. Concordantly, mechanistic studies revealed that co-expression of AXIN2 recruited TNKS to AXIN1 and stimulated TNKS-mediated degradation of transiently expressed AXIN1 wild-type and AXIN1 mutants with impaired TNKS binding. Taken together, our data suggest that AXIN2 promotes degradation of AXIN1 through TNKS in colorectal cancer cells by directly linking the two proteins, and these findings may be relevant for TNKS inhibition-based colorectal cancer therapies.
    Keywords:  AXIN1; AXIN2; TNKS; Wnt pathway; colorectal cancer
  12. NPJ Precis Oncol. 2024 Jul 16. 8(1): 144
      Protein tyrosine phosphatase SHP2 activates RAS signaling, which is a novel target for colorectal cancer (CRC) therapy. However, SHP2 inhibitor monotherapy is ineffective for metastatic CRC and a combination therapy is required. In this study, we aimed to improve the antitumor efficacy of SHP2 inhibition and try to explore the resistance mechanism of SHP2 inhibitor. Results showed that WWP1 promoted the proliferation of CRC cells. Genetic or pharmacological inhibition of WWP1 enhanced the effect of SHP2 inhibitor in suppressing tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. WWP1 may mediate feedback reactivation of AKT signaling following SHP2 inhibition. Furthermore, nomogram models constructed with IHC expression of WWP1 and SHP2 greatly improved the accuracy of prognosis prediction for patients with CRC. Our findings indicate that WWP1 inhibitor I3C can synergize with SHP2 inhibitor and is expected to be a new strategy for clinical trials in treating advanced CRC patients.
  13. Cell Death Dis. 2024 Jul 13. 15(7): 502
      Dysfunction of the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is involved in the pathogenesis of various malignancies including colorectal cancer (CRC). Ubiquitin domain containing 1 (UBTD1), a ubiquitin-like protein, regulates UPS-mediated protein degradation and tumor progression in some cancer types. However, the biological function and mechanism of UBTD1 are far from being well elucidated, and its role in CRC has not been explored yet. In our study, we analyzed CRC patients' clinical information and UBTD1 expression data, and found that the expression of UBTD1 in cancer tissue was significantly higher than that in adjacent normal tissue. Higher UBTD1 expression was significantly associated with poorer survival and more lymph node metastasis. Overexpression of UBTD1 could facilitate, while knockdown could inhibit CRC cell proliferation and migration, respectively. RNA-seq and proteomics indicated that c-Myc is an important downstream target of UBTD1. Metabolomics showed the products of the glycolysis pathway were significantly increased in UBTD1 overexpression cells. In vitro, we verified UBTD1 upregulating c-Myc protein and promoting CRC cell proliferation and migration via regulating c-Myc. UBTD1 promoted CRC cells' glycolysis, evidenced by the increased lactate production and glucose uptake following UBTD1 overexpression. Mechanistically, UBTD1 prolonged the half-life of the c-Myc protein by binding to E3 ligase β-transducin repeat-containing protein (β-TrCP), thereby upregulated the expression of glycolysis rate-limiting enzyme hexokinase II (HK2), and enhanced glycolysis and promoted CRC progression. In conclusion, our study revealed that UBTD1 promotes CRC progression by upregulating glycolysis via the β-TrCP/c-Myc/HK2 pathway, suggesting its potential as a prognostic biomarker and therapeutic target in CRC.