The underlying mechanism of Fusobacterium nucleatum (Fn) in the carcinogenesis of colorectal cancer (CRC) is poorly understood. Here, we examined Fn abundance in CRC tissues, as well as β-catenin, TLR4 and PAK1 protein abundance in Fn positive and Fn negative CRCs. Furthermore, we isolated a strain of Fn (F01) from a CRC tissue and examined whether Fn (F01) infection of colon cancer cells activated β-catenin signaling via the TLR4/P-PAK1/P-β-catenin S675 cascade. Invasive Fn was abundant in 62.2% of CRC tissues. TLR4, PAK1 and nuclear β-catenin proteins were more abundant within Fn-positive over Fn-negative CRCs (P < 0.05). Fn and its lipopolysaccharide induced a significant increase in TLR4/P-PAK1/P-β-catenin S675/C-myc/CyclinD1 protein abundance, as well as in the nuclear translocation of β-catenin. Furthermore, inhibition of TLR4 or PAK1 prior to challenge with Fn significantly decreased protein abundance of P-β-catenin S675, C-myc and Cyclin D1, as well as nuclear β-catenin accumulation. Inhibition of TLR4 significantly decreased P-PAK1 protein abundance, and for the first time, we observed an interaction between TLR4 and P-PAK1 using immunoprecipitation. Our data suggest that invasive Fn activates β-catenin signaling via a TLR4/P-PAK1/P-β-catenin S675 cascade in CRC. Furthermore, TLR4 and PAK1 could be potential pharmaceutical targets for the treatment of Fn-related CRCs.
Keywords: Fusobacterium nucleatum; colorectal cancer; p21-activated kinase 1; toll-like receptor 4; β-catenin signaling.