Reuterin in the healthy gut microbiome suppresses colorectal cancer growth through altering redox balance

Cancer Cell. 2022 Feb 14;40(2):185-200.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2021.12.001. Epub 2021 Dec 23.


Microbial dysbiosis is a colorectal cancer (CRC) hallmark and contributes to inflammation, tumor growth, and therapy response. Gut microbes signal via metabolites, but how the metabolites impact CRC is largely unknown. We interrogated fecal metabolites associated with mouse models of colon tumorigenesis with varying mutational load. We find that microbial metabolites from healthy mice or humans are growth-repressive, and this response is attenuated in mice and patients with CRC. Microbial profiling reveals that Lactobacillus reuteri and its metabolite, reuterin, are downregulated in mouse and human CRC. Reuterin alters redox balance, and reduces proliferation and survival in colon cancer cells. Reuterin induces selective protein oxidation and inhibits ribosomal biogenesis and protein translation. Exogenous Lactobacillus reuteri restricts colon tumor growth, increases tumor reactive oxygen species, and decreases protein translation in vivo. Our findings indicate that a healthy microbiome and specifically, Lactobacillus reuteri, is protective against CRC through microbial metabolite exchange.

Keywords: Lactobacillus reuteri; Microbiome; Reuterin; colorectal cancer; metabolites; protein oxidation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Glyceraldehyde / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glyceraldehyde / metabolism
  • Glyceraldehyde / pharmacology
  • Host Microbial Interactions
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Metabolomics / methods
  • Metagenomics / methods
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxidation-Reduction* / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Propane / metabolism*
  • Propane / pharmacology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Biomarkers
  • 3-hydroxypropionaldehyde
  • Glyceraldehyde
  • Glutathione
  • Propane