Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most common tumor entities. In patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, the development of colitis-associated colon cancer is considered a dangerous long-term complication. IL-17A and the transcription factor retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor γt (RORγt) play fundamental roles in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases; in human studies, we detected a dense infiltration of RORγt-dependent CD4(+) IL17A(+) T helper (Th)17 cells in specimens of CRC, ulcerative colitis, and ulcerative colitis-associated colorectal cancer. However, the mechanistic role of RORγt(+) hematopoietic cells in colitis-associated tumorigenesis remains unclear. To investigate colitis-associated colon tumorigenesis, we conducted studies in the AOM+DSS mouse model that revealed the importance of RORγt for colon tumor progression. In the absence of RORγt-dependent Th17 lymphocytes, mice showed signs of intense chronic colitis, but developed significantly fewer macroscopic tumor nodules. The reduction of tumor development in RORγt(-/-) mice was not due to reduced colon tumor initiation. However, the proliferation rate of tumor cells was reduced in the absence of RORγt-dependent Th17 cells and tumor cells showed pronounced signs of senescence-associated epigenetic and lysosomal changes. These results indicate an important role for the immunological milieu in colitis-associated cancer, which is shaped in-part by RORγt-dependent Th17 lymphocytes that support CRC growth.
Keywords: AOM+DSS; Colitis-associated colorectal cancer; IL-17; RORγt; Th17 cells.
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