A Metabolic Model of Intestinal Secretions: The Link between Human Microbiota and Colorectal Cancer Progression

Metabolites. 2021 Jul 15;11(7):456. doi: 10.3390/metabo11070456.


The human gut microbiota plays a dual key role in maintaining human health or inducing disorders, for example, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancers such as colorectal cancer (CRC). High-throughput data analysis, such as metagenomics and metabolomics, have shown the diverse effects of alterations in dynamic bacterial populations on the initiation and progression of colorectal cancer. However, it is well established that microbiome and human cells constantly influence each other, so it is not appropriate to study them independently. Genome-scale metabolic modeling is a well-established mathematical framework that describes the dynamic behavior of these two axes at the system level. In this study, we created community microbiome models of three conditions during colorectal cancer progression, including carcinoma, adenoma and health status, and showed how changes in the microbial population influence intestinal secretions. Conclusively, our findings showed that alterations in the gut microbiome might provoke mutations and transform adenomas into carcinomas. These alterations include the secretion of mutagenic metabolites such as H2S, NO compounds, spermidine and TMA (trimethylamine), as well as the reduction of butyrate. Furthermore, we found that the colorectal cancer microbiome can promote inflammation, cancer progression (e.g., angiogenesis) and cancer prevention (e.g., apoptosis) by increasing and decreasing certain metabolites such as histamine, glutamine and pyruvate. Thus, modulating the gut microbiome could be a promising strategy for the prevention and treatment of CRC.

Keywords: colorectal cancer; community metabolic modeling; genome-scale metabolic model; microbiome.