BACKGROUND & AIMS: The molecular features of colorectal tumors differ with their anatomic location. Colorectal tumors are usually classified as proximal or distal. We collected data from 3 cohorts to identify demographic, clinical, anthropometric, lifestyle, and dietary risk factors for colorectal cancer (CRC) at 7 anatomic subsites. We examined whether the associations differ among refined subsites and whether there are trends in associations from cecum to rectum. METHODS: We collected data from the Nurses' Health Study, Nurses' Health Study 2, and Health Professionals Follow-up Study (45,351 men and 178,016 women, followed for a median 23 years) on 24 risk factors in relation to risk of cancer in cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, rectosigmoid junction, and rectum. Hazard ratios were estimated using Cox proportional hazards regression. We tested for linear and nonlinear trends in associations with CRC among subsites and within proximal colon, distal colon, and rectum. RESULTS: We documented 3058 cases of CRC (474 in cecum, 633 in ascending colon, 250 in transverse colon, 221 in descending colon, 750 in sigmoid colon, 202 in rectosigmoid junction, and 528 in rectum). The positive associations with cancer risk decreased, from cecum to rectum, for age and family history of CRC. In contrast, the inverse associations with cancer risk increased, from cecum to rectum, for endoscopic screening and intake of whole grains, cereal fiber, and processed red meat. There was a significant nonlinear trend in the association between CRC and female sex, with hazard ratios ranging from 1.73 for ascending colon cancer to 0.54 for sigmoid colon cancer. For proximal colon cancers, the association with alcohol consumption and smoking before age 30 years increased from the cecum to transverse colon. For distal colon cancers, the positive association with waist circumference in men was greater for descending vs sigmoid colon cancer. CONCLUSIONS: In an analysis of 3058 cases of CRC, we found that risk factor profiles differed for cancers along the colorectum. Proximal vs distal classifications are not sufficient to encompass the regional variations in colorectal tumor features and risk factors.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Intestinal microfold (M) cells are a unique subset of intestinal epithelial cells in the Peyer's patches that regulate mucosal immunity, serving as portals for sampling and uptake of luminal antigens. The inability to efficiently develop human M cells in cell culture has impeded studies of the intestinal immune system. We aimed to identify signaling pathways required for differentiation of human M cells and establish a robust culture system using human ileum enteroids. METHODS: We analyzed transcriptome data from mouse Peyer's patches to identify cell populations in close proximity to M cells. We used the human enteroid system to determine which cytokines were required to induce M-cell differentiation. We performed transcriptome, immunofluorescence, scanning electron microscope, and transcytosis experiments to validate the development of phenotypic and functional human M cells. RESULTS: A combination of retinoic acid and lymphotoxin induced differentiation of glycoprotein 2-positive human M cells, which lack apical microvilli structure. Upregulated expression of innate immune-related genes within M cells correlated with a lack of viral antigens after rotavirus infection. Human M cells, developed in the enteroid system, internalized and transported enteric viruses, such as rotavirus and reovirus, across the intestinal epithelium barrier in the enteroids. CONCLUSIONS: We identified signaling pathways required for differentiation of intestinal M cells, and used this information to create a robust culture method to develop human M cells with capacity for internalization and transport of viruses. Studies of this model might increase our understanding of antigen presentation and the systemic entry of enteric pathogens in the human intestine.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which has been characterized by fever, respiratory, and gastrointestinal symptoms as well as shedding of virus RNA into feces. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of published gastrointestinal symptoms and detection of virus in stool and also summarized data from a cohort of patients with COVID-19 in Hong Kong. METHODS: We collected data from the cohort of patients with COVID-19 in Hong Kong (N = 59; diagnosis from February 2 through February 29, 2020),and searched PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, and 3 Chinese databases through March 11, 2020, according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. We analyzed pooled data on the prevalence of overall and individual gastrointestinal symptoms (loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain or discomfort) using a random effects model. RESULTS: Among the 59 patients with COVID-19 in Hong Kong, 15 patients (25.4%) had gastrointestinal symptoms, and 9 patients (15.3%) had stool that tested positive for virus RNA. Stool viral RNA was detected in 38.5% and 8.7% among those with and without diarrhea, respectively (P = .02). The median fecal viral load was 5.1 log(10) copies per milliliter in patients with diarrhea vs 3.9 log(10) copies per milliliter in patients without diarrhea (P = .06). In a meta-analysis of 60 studies comprising 4243 patients, the pooled prevalence of all gastrointestinal symptoms was 17.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 12.3-24.5); 11.8% of patients with nonsevere COVID-19 had gastrointestinal symptoms (95% CI, 4.1-29.1), and 17.1% of patients with severe COVID-19 had gastrointestinal symptoms (95% CI, 6.9-36.7). In the meta-analysis, the pooled prevalence of stool samples that were positive for virus RNA was 48.1% (95% CI, 38.3-57.9); of these samples, 70.3% of those collected after loss of virus from respiratory specimens tested positive for the virus (95% CI, 49.6-85.1). CONCLUSIONS: In an analysis of data from the Hong Kong cohort of patients with COVID-19 and a meta-analysis of findings from publications, we found that 17.6% of patients with COVID-19 had gastrointestinal symptoms. Virus RNA was detected in stool samples from 48.1% patients, even in stool collected after respiratory samples had negative test results. Health care workers should therefore exercise caution in collecting fecal samples or performing endoscopic procedures in patients with COVID-19, even during patient recovery.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: We investigated whether ABL protooncogene 1, non-receptor tyrosine kinase (ABL1) is involved in development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). METHODS: We analyzed clinical and gene expression data from The Cancer Genome Atlas. Albumin-Cre (Hep(WT)) mice and mice with hepatocyte-specific disruption of Abl1 (Hep(Abl-/-) mice) were given hydrodynamic injections of plasmids encoding the Sleeping Beauty transposase and transposons with the MET gene and a catenin beta 1 gene with an N-terminal truncation, which induces development of liver tumors. Some mice were then gavaged with the ABL1 inhibitor nilotinib or vehicle (control) daily for 4 weeks. We knocked down ABL1 with short hairpin RNAs in Hep3B and Huh7 HCC cells and analyzed their proliferation and growth as xenograft tumors in mice. We performed RNA sequencing and gene set enrichment analysis of tumors. We knocked down or overexpressed NOTCH1 and MYC in HCC cells and analyzed proliferation. We measured levels of phosphorylated ABL1, MYC, and NOTCH1 by immunohistochemical analysis of an HCC tissue microarray. RESULTS: HCC tissues had higher levels of ABL1 than non-tumor liver tissues, which correlated with shorter survival times of patients. Hep(WT) mice with the MET and catenin beta 1 transposons developed liver tumors and survived a median 64 days; Hep(Abl-/-) mice with these transposons developed tumors that were 50% smaller and survived a median 81 days. Knockdown of ABL1 in human HCC cells reduced proliferation, growth as xenograft tumors in mice, and expression of MYC, which reduced expression of NOTCH1. Knockdown of NOTCH1 or MYC in HCC cells significantly reduced cell growth. NOTCH1 or MYC overexpression in human HCC cells promoted proliferation and rescued the phenotype caused by ABL1 knockdown. The level of phosphorylated (activated) ABL1 correlated with levels of MYC and NOTCH1 in human HCC specimens. Nilotinib decreased expression of MYC and NOTCH1 in HCC cell lines, reduced the growth of xenograft tumors in mice, and slowed growth of liver tumors in mice with MET and catenin beta 1 transposons, reducing tumor levels of MYC and NOTCH1. CONCLUSIONS: HCC samples have increased levels of ABL1 compared with nontumor liver tissues, and increased levels of ABL1 correlate with shorter survival times of patients. Loss or inhibition of ABL1 reduces proliferation of HCC cells and slows growth of liver tumors in mice. Inhibitors of ABL1 might be used for treatment of HCC.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Immune checkpoint inhibitors are effective in the treatment of some hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs), but these tumors do not always respond to inhibitors of programmed cell death 1 (PDCD1, also called PD1). We investigated mechanisms of resistance of liver tumors in mice to infiltrating T cells. METHODS: Mice were given hydrodynamic tail vein injections of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats-Cas9 (CRISPR-Cas9) and transposon vectors to disrupt Trp53 and overexpress C-Myc (Trp53(KO)/C-Myc(OE) mice). Pvrl1 and Pvrl3 were knocked down in Hepa1-6 cells by using short hairpin RNAs. Hepa1-6 cells were injected into livers of C57BL/6 mice; some mice were given intraperitoneal injections of antibodies against PD1, T-cell immunoreceptor with Ig and ITIM domains (TIGIT), or CD8 before the cancer cells were injected. Liver tissues were collected from mice and analyzed by histology, immunohistochemistry, and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction; tumors were analyzed by mass cytometry using markers to detect T cells and other lymphocytes. We obtained HCC and nontumorous liver tissues and clinical data from patients who underwent surgery in Hong Kong and analyzed the tissues by immunohistochemistry. RESULTS: Trp53(KO)/C-Myc(OE) mice developed liver tumors in 3-5 weeks; injections of anti-PD1 did not slow tumor development. Tumors from mice given anti-PD1 had larger numbers of memory CD8(+) T cells (CD44(+)CD62L(-)KLRG1(int)) and T cells that expressed PD1, lymphocyte activating 3 (LAG3), and TIGIT compared with mice not given the antibody. HCC tissues from patients had higher levels of PVRL1 messenger RNA and protein than nontumorous tissues. Increased PVRL1 was associated with shorter times of disease-free survival. Knockdown of Pvrl1 in Hepa1-6 cells caused them to form smaller tumors in mice, infiltrated by higher numbers of CD8(+) T cells that expressed the inhibitory protein TIGIT; these effects were not observed in mice with depletion of CD8(+) T cells. In Hepa1-6 cells, PVRL1 stabilized cell surface PVR, which interacted with TIGIT on CD8(+) T cells; knockdown of Pvrl1 reduced cell-surface levels of PVR but not levels of Pvr messenger RNA. In Trp53(KO)/C-Myc(OE) mice and mice with tumors grown from Hepa1-6 cells, injection of the combination of anti-PD1 and anti-TIGIT significantly reduced tumor growth, increased the ratio of cytotoxic to regulatory T cells in tumors, and prolonged survival. CONCLUSIONS: PVRL1, which is up-regulated by HCC cells, stabilizes cell surface PVR, which interacts with TIGIT, an inhibitory molecule on CD8(+) effector memory T cells. This suppresses the ant-tumor immune response. Inhibitors of PVRL1/TIGIT, along with anti-PD1 might be developed for treatment of HCC.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The impact of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is unknown. We sought to characterize the clinical course of COVID-19 among patients with IBD and evaluate the association among demographics, clinical characteristics, and immunosuppressant treatments on COVID-19 outcomes. METHODS: Surveillance Epidemiology of Coronavirus Under Research Exclusion for Inflammatory Bowel Disease (SECUREIBD) is a large, international registry created to monitor outcomes of patients with IBD with confirmed COVID-19. We calculated age-standardized mortality ratios and used multivariable logistic regression to identify factors associated with severe COVID-19, defined as intensive care unit admission, ventilator use, and/or death. RESULTS: 525 cases from 33 countries were reported (median age 43 years, 53% men). Thirty-seven patients (7%) had severe COVID-19, 161 (31%) were hospitalized, and 16 patients died (3% case fatality rate). Standardized mortality ratios for patients with IBD were 1.8 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.9-2.6), 1.5 (95% CI, 0.7-2.2), and 1.7 (95% CI, 0.9-2.5) relative to data from China, Italy, and the United States, respectively. Risk factors for severe COVID-19 among patients with IBD included increasing age (adjusted odds ratio [a0R], 1.04; 95% CI, 1.011.02), >= 2 comorbidities (aOR, 2.9; 95% CI, 1.1-7.8), systemic corticosteroids (aOR, 6.9; 95% CI, 2.3-20.5), and sulfasalazine or 5-aminosalicylate use (aOR, 3.1; 95% CI, 1.3-7.7). Tumor necrosis factor antagonist treatment was not associated with severe COVID-19 (aOR, 0.9; 95% CI, 0.4-2.2). CONCLUSIONS: Increasing age, comorbidities, and corticosteroids are associated with severe COVID-19 among patients with IBD, although a causal relationship cannot be definitively established. Notably, tumor necrosis factor antagonists do not appear to be associated with severe COVID-19.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is characterized by the presence of defective viral envelope proteins (hepatitis B surface antigen [HBsAg]) and the duration of infection- most patients acquire the infection at birth or during the first years of life. We investigated the effects of these factors on patients' lymphocyte and HBV-specific T-cell populations. METHODS: We collected blood samples and clinical data from 243 patients with HBV infection (3-75 years old) in the United Kingdom and China. We measured levels of HBV DNA, HBsAg, hepatitis B e antigen, and alanine aminotransferase; analyzed HBV genotypes; and isolated peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). In PBMCs from 48 patients with varying levels of serum HBsAg, we measured 40 markers on nature killer and T cells by mass cytometry. PBMCs from 189 patients with chronic infection and 38 patients with resolved infections were incubated with HBV peptide libraries, and HBV-specific T cells were identified by interferon gamma enzyme-linked immune absorbent spot (ELISpot) assays or flow cytometry. We used multivariate linear regression and performed variable selection using the Akaike information criterion to identify covariates associated with HBV-specific responses of T cells. RESULTS: Although T- and natural killer cell phenotypes and functions did not change with level of serum HBsAg, numbers of HBs-specific T cells correlated with serum levels of HBsAg (r = 0.3367; P < .00001). After we performed the variable selection, the multivariate linear regression model identified patient age as the only factor significantly associated with numbers of HBs-specific T cells (P = .000115). In patients younger than 30 years, HBs-specific T cells constituted 28.26% of the total HBV-specific T cells; this value decreased to 7.14% in patients older than 30 years. CONCLUSIONS: In an analysis of immune cells from patients with chronic HBV infection, we found that the duration of HBsAg exposure, rather than the quantity of HBsAg, was associated with the level of anti-HBV immune response. Although the presence of HBs-specific T cells might not be required for the clearance of HBV infection in all patients, strategies to restore anti-HBV immune responses should be considered in patients younger than 30 years.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Calcineurin is a ubiquitously expressed central Ca2 thorn -responsive signaling molecule that mediates acute pancreatitis, but little is known about its effects. We compared the effects of calcineurin expression by hematopoietic cells vs pancreas in mouse models of pancreatitis and pancreatitis-associated lung inflammation. METHODS: We performed studies with mice with hematopoietic-specific or pancreas-specific deletion of protein phosphatase 3, regulatory subunit B, alpha isoform (PPP3R1, also called CNB1), in mice with deletion of CNB1 (Cnb1UBCO/O) and in the corresponding controls for each deletion of CNB1. Acute pancreatitis was induced in mice by administration of caerulein or high-pressure infusion of radiocontrast into biliopancreatic ducts; some mice were also given intraductal infusions of an adeno-associated virus vector that expressed nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT)-luciferase into pancreas. Pancreas, bone marrow, liver, kidney, heart, and lung were collected and analyzed by histopathology, immunohistochemistry, and immunoblots; levels of cytokines were measured in serum. Mouse and human primary pancreatic acinar cells were transfected with a vector that expressed NFAT-luciferase and incubated with an agent that blocks interaction of NFAT with calcineurin; cells were analyzed by immunofluorescence. Calcineurin-mediated neutrophil chemotaxis and reactive oxygen species production were measured in neutrophils from mice. RESULTS: Mice with hematopoietic-specific deletion of CNB1 developed the same level of local pancreatic inflammation as control mice after administration of caerulein or infusion of radiocontrast into biliopancreatic ducts. Cnb1UBCO/O mice or mice with pancreas-specific deletion of CNB1 developed less severe pancreatitis and reduced pancreatic inflammation after administration of caerulein or infusion of radiocontrast into biliopancreatic ducts compared with control mice. NFAT was activated in pancreas of Swiss Webster mice given caerulein or infusions of radiocontrast into biliopancreatic ducts. Blocking the interaction between calcineurin and NFAT did not reduce pancreatic acinar cell necrosis in response to caerulein or infusions of radiocontrast. Mice with hematopoietic-specific deletion of CNB1 (but not mice with pancreas-specific deletion of CNB1) had reduced infiltration of lung tissues by neutrophils. Neutrophil chemotaxis and production of reactive oxygen species were decreased after incubation with a calcineurin inhibitor. CONCLUSIONS: Hematopoietic and neutrophil expression of calcineurin promotes pancreatitis-associated lung inflammation, whereas pancreatic calcineurin promotes local pancreatic inflammation. The findings indicate that the protective effects of blocking or deleting calcineurin on pancreatitis are mediated by the source of its expression. This information should be used in the development of strategies to inhibit calcineurin for the prevention of pancreatitis and pancreatitis-associated lung inflammation.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Development of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is associated with reductions in hepatic microRNA122 (MIR122); the RAR related orphan receptor A (RORA) promotes expression of MIR122. Increasing expression of RORA in livers of mice increases expression of MIR122 and reduces lipotoxicity. We investigated the effects of a RORA agonist in mouse models of NASH. METHODS: We screened a chemical library to identify agonists of RORA and tested their effects on a human hepatocellular carcinoma cell line (Huh7). C57BL/6 mice were fed a chow or high-fat diet (HFD) for 4 weeks to induce fatty liver. Mice were given hydrodynamic tail vein injections of a MIR122 antagonist (antagomiR-122) or a control antagomiR once each week for 3 weeks while still on the HFD or chow diet, or intraperitoneal injections of the RORA agonist RS-2982 or vehicle, twice each week for 3 weeks. Livers, gonad white adipose, and skeletal muscle were collected and analyzed by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, histology, and immunohistochemistry. A separate group of mice were fed an atherogenic diet, with or without injections of RS-2982 for 3 weeks; livers were analyzed by immunohistochemistry, and plasma was analyzed for levels of aminotransferases. We analyzed data from liver tissues from patients with NASH included in the RNA-sequencing databases GSE33814 and GSE89632. RESULTS: Injection of mice with antagomiR122 significantly reduced levels of MIR122 in plasma, liver, and white adipose tissue; in mice on an HFD, antagomiR-122 injections increased fat droplets and total triglyceride content in liver and reduced b-oxidation and energy expenditure, resulting in significantly more weight gain than in mice given the control microRNA. We identified RS-2982 as an agonist of RORA and found it to increase expression of MIR122 promoter activity in Huh7 cells. In mice fed an HFD or atherogenic diet, injections of RS-2982 increased hepatic levels of MIR122 precursors and reduced hepatic synthesis of triglycerides by reducing expression of biosynthesis enzymes. In these mice, RS 2982 significantly reduced hepatic lipotoxicity, reduced liver fibrosis, increased insulin resistance, and reduced body weightcompared with mice injected with vehicle. Patients who underwent cardiovascular surgery had increased levels of plasma MIR122 compared to its levels before surgery; increased expression of plasma MIR122 was associated with increased levels of plasma free fatty acids and levels of RORA. CONCLUSIONS: We identified the compound RS-2982 as an agonist of RORA that increases expression of MIR122 in cell lines and livers of mice. Mice fed an HFD or atherogenic diet given injections of RS-2982 had reduced hepatic lipotoxicity, liver fibrosis, and body weight compared with mice given the vehicle. Agonists of RORA might be developed for treatment of NASH.
BACKGROUND & AIMS: Alterations in the intestinal microbiota affect development of colorectal cancer and drug metabolism. We studied whether the intestinal microbiota affect the ability of aspirin to reduce colon tumor development in mice. METHODS: We performed studies with APCmin/ thorn mice and mice given azoxymethane and dextran sulfate sodium to induce colorectal carcinogenesis. Some mice were given antibiotics to deplete intestinal microbes, with or without aspirin, throughout the entire experiment. Germ-free mice were studied in validation experiments. Colon tissues were collected and analyzed by histopathology, quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, and immunoblots. Blood samples and gut luminal contents were analyzed by liquid chromatography/ mass spectrometry and an arylesterase activity assay. Fecal samples were analyzed by 16S ribosomal RNA gene and shotgun metagenome sequencing. RESULTS: Administration of aspirin to mice reduced colorectal tumor number and load in APCmin/ thorn mice and mice given azoxymethane and dextran sulfate sodium that had been given antibiotics (depleted gut microbiota), but not in mice with intact microbiota. Germfree mice given aspirin developed fewer colorectal tumors than conventionalized germ-free mice given aspirin. Plasma levels of aspirin were higher in mice given antibiotics than in mice with intact gut microbiota. Analyses of luminal contents revealed that aerobic gut microbes, including Lysinibacillus sphaericus, degrade aspirin. Germ-free mice fed L sphaericus had lower plasma levels of aspirin than germ-free mice that were not fed this bacterium. There was an inverse correlation between aspirin dose and colorectal tumor development in conventional mice, but this correlation was lost with increased abundance of L sphaericus. Fecal samples from mice fed aspirin were enriched in Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus genera, which are considered beneficial, and had reductions in Alistipes finegoldii and Bacteroides fragili, which are considered pathogenic. CONCLUSIONS: Aspirin reduces development of colorectal tumors in APCmin/ thorn mice and mice given azoxymethane and dextran sulfate sodium, depending on the presence of intestinal microbes. L sphaericus in the gut degrades aspirin and reduced its chemopreventive effects in mice. Fecal samples from mice fed aspirin were enriched in beneficial bacteria, with reductions in pathogenic bacteria.