Epigenetic changes induced by Bacteroides fragilis toxin (BFT)

Jawara Allen, Stephanie Hao, Cynthia L. Sears, Winston Timp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis (ETBF) is a gram negative, obligate anaerobe member of the gut microbial community in up to 40% of healthy individuals. This bacterium is found more frequently in people with colorectal cancer (CRC) and causes tumor formation in the distal colon of mice heterozygous for the adenomatous polyposis coli gene (Apc+/−); tumor formation is dependent on ETBF-secreted Bacteroides fragilis toxin (BFT). Though some of the immediate downstream effects of BFT on colon epithelial cells (CECs) are known, we still do not understand how this potent exotoxin causes changes in CECs that lead to tumor formation and growth. Because of the extensive data connecting alterations in the epigenome with tumor formation, initial experiments attempting to connect BFT-induced tumor formation with methylation in CECs have been performed, but the effect of BFT on other epigenetic processes, such as chromatin structure, remains unexplored. Here, the changes in chromatin accessibility (ATAC-seq) and gene expression (RNA-seq) induced by treatment of HT29/C1 cells with BFT for 24 and 48 hours is examined. Our data show that several genes are differentially expressed after BFT treatment and these changes correlate with changes in chromatin accessibility. Also, sites of increased chromatin accessibility are associated with a lower frequency of common single nucleotide variants (SNVs) in CRC and with a higher frequency of common differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in CRC. These data provide insight into the mechanisms by which BFT induces tumor formation. Further understanding of how BFT impacts nuclear structure and function in vivo is needed. Importance Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a major public health concern; there were approximately 135,430 new cases in 2017, and CRC is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women in the US (1). Many factors have been linked to CRC development, the most recent of which is the gut microbiome. Pre-clinical models support that enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis (ETBF), among other bacteria, induce colon carcinogenesis. However, it remains unclear if the virulence determinants of any pro-carcinogenic colon bacterium induce DNA mutations or changes that initiate clonal CEC expansion. Using a reductionist model, we demonstrate that BFT rapidly alters chromatin structure and function consistent with capacity to contribute to CRC pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalUnknown Journal
StatePublished - Apr 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)

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