Gut microbial metabolite facilitates colorectal cancer development via ferroptosis inhibition

Nat Cell Biol. 2024 Jan;26(1):124-137. doi: 10.1038/s41556-023-01314-6. Epub 2024 Jan 2.


The gut microbiota play a pivotal role in human health. Emerging evidence indicates that gut microbes participate in the progression of tumorigenesis through the generation of carcinogenic metabolites. However, the underlying molecular mechanism is largely unknown. In the present study we show that a tryptophan metabolite derived from Peptostreptococcus anaerobius, trans-3-indoleacrylic acid (IDA), facilitates colorectal carcinogenesis. Mechanistically, IDA acts as an endogenous ligand of an aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) to transcriptionally upregulate the expression of ALDH1A3 (aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 family member A3), which utilizes retinal as a substrate to generate NADH, essential for ferroptosis-suppressor protein 1(FSP1)-mediated synthesis of reduced coenzyme Q10. Loss of AHR or ALDH1A3 largely abrogates IDA-promoted tumour development both in vitro and in vivo. It is interesting that P. anaerobius is significantly enriched in patients with colorectal cancer (CRC). IDA treatment or implantation of P. anaerobius promotes CRC progression in both xenograft model and ApcMin/+ mice. Together, our findings demonstrate that targeting the IDA-AHR-ALDH1A3 axis should be promising for ferroptosis-related CRC treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Ferroptosis* / genetics
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Humans
  • Mice