Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world and its morbidity and mortality rates are increasing due to alterations to human lifestyle and dietary habits. The relationship between human gut flora and colorectal cancer has attracted increasing attention. In the present study, a metabolic fingerprinting technique that combined pyrosequencing with gas chromatography-mass spectrometry was utilized to compare the differences in gut flora profiling and fecal metabolites between healthy individuals and patients with colorectal cancer. The results demonstrated that there were no significant differences in the abundance and diversity of gut flora between healthy individuals and patients with colorectal cancer (P>0.05) and the dominant bacterial phyla present in the gut of both groups included Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes and Verrucomicrobia. At the bacterial strain/genus level, significant differences were observed in the relative abundance of 18 species of bacteria (P<0.05). Analysis of fecal metabolites demonstrated that the metabolic profiles of healthy individuals and patients with colorectal cancer were distinct. The levels of short-chain fatty acid metabolites, including acetic acid, valeric acid, isobutyric acid and isovaleric acid, and of nine amino acids in patients with colorectal cancer were significantly higher than those in healthy individuals (P<0.05). However, the levels of butyrate, oleic acid, trans-oleic acid, linoleic acid, glycerol, monoacyl glycerol, myristic acid, ursodesoxycholic acid and pantothenic acid in patients with colorectal cancer were significantly lower than those in healthy individuals (P<0.05). Pearson rank correlation analysis demonstrated that there was a correlation between gut flora profiling and metabolite composition. These findings suggest that gut flora disorder results in the alteration of bacterial metabolism, which may be associated with the pathogenesis of colorectal cancer. The results of the present study are useful as a foundation for further studies to elucidate a potential colorectal cancer diagnostic index and therapeutic targets.
Keywords: colorectal cancer; gut flora; metabolomics.