Cell 2015 Jul 18;162(1):45-58. Epub 2015 Jun 18.
Department of Immunology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA. Electronic address:
Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Mutations in the innate immune sensor AIM2 are frequently identified in patients with colorectal cancer, but how AIM2 modulates colonic tumorigenesis is unknown. Here, we found that Aim2-deficient mice were hypersusceptible to colonic tumor development. Production of inflammasome-associated cytokines and other inflammatory mediators was largely intact in Aim2-deficient mice; however, intestinal stem cells were prone to uncontrolled proliferation. Aberrant Wnt signaling expanded a population of tumor-initiating stem cells in the absence of AIM2. Susceptibility of Aim2-deficient mice to colorectal tumorigenesis was enhanced by a dysbiotic gut microbiota, which was reduced by reciprocal exchange of gut microbiota with healthy wild-type mice. These findings uncover a synergy between a specific host genetic factor and gut microbiota in determining the susceptibility to colorectal cancer. Therapeutic modulation of AIM2 expression and microbiota has the potential to prevent colorectal cancer.