Owing to their health benefits, dietary fermentable fibers, such as refined inulin, are increasingly fortified in processed foods to enhance their nutritional value. However, we previously demonstrated that when inulin was fed to Toll-like receptor 5 deficient (T5KO) mice susceptible to dysbiosis, a subset of them developed cholestasis and subsequently liver cancer in a gut microbiota-dependent manner. Therefore, we hypothesized that clearance of bacterial taxa, and thereby gut metabolites, involved in the onset and progression to liver cancer could abate the disease in these mice. Such a reshaping of microbiota by vancomycin treatment was sufficient to halt the development of liver cancer in inulin-fed T5KO mice; however, this intervention did not remedy disease penetrance for cholestatic liver injury and its sequelae, including hyperbilirubinemia, hypolipidemia, cholemia and liver fibrosis. Selective depletion of gut bacterial communities was observed in vancomycin-treated mice, including Gram-positive Lachnospiraceae and Ruminococcaceae belonging to the phylum Firmicutes, Bifidobacteria of the phylum Actinobacteria, which ferment fibers, and Clostridium cluster XIVa, which produce secondary bile acids. Lack of liver cancer in vancomycin-treated mice strongly correlated with the substantial loss of secondary bile acids in circulation. Although cholemia was unabated by vancomycin, the composition of serum bile acids shifted toward an abundance of hydrophilic primary bile acids, denoted by the increase in conjugated-to-unconjugated bile acid ratio. Taken together, the present study suggests that microbiotal regulation of bile acid metabolism is one of the critical mediators of fermentable fiber-induced liver cancer in dysbiotic mice.
Keywords: Toll-like receptor 5; bile acids; bilirubin; cholemia; cholestasis; fermentation; hepatocellular carcinoma; inulin; soluble fiber.