The existence of distinct breast microbiota has been recently established, but their biological impact in breast cancer remains elusive. Focusing on the shift in microbial community composition in diseased breast compared with normal breast, we identified the presence of Bacteroides fragilis in cancerous breast. Mammary gland as well as gut colonization with enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis (ETBF), which secretes B. fragilis toxin (BFT), rapidly induces epithelial hyperplasia in the mammary gland. Breast cancer cells exposed to BFT exhibit “BFT memory” from the initial exposure. Intriguingly, gut or breast duct colonization with ETBF strongly induces growth and metastatic progression of tumor cells implanted in mammary ducts, in contrast to nontoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis. This work sheds light on the oncogenic impact of a procarcinogenic colon bacterium ETBF on breast cancer progression, implicates the β-catenin and Notch1 axis as its functional mediators, and proposes the concept of “BFT memory” that can have far-reaching biological implications after initial exposure to ETBF. Significance: B. fragilis is an inhabitant of breast tissue, and gut or mammary duct colonization with ETBF triggers epithelial hyperplasia and augments breast cancer growth and metastasis. Short-term exposure to BFT elicits a “BFT memory” with long-term implications, functionally mediated by the β-catenin and Notch1 pathways.
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