Molecular cancer

Short-chain fatty acid level and field cancerization show opposing associations with enteroendocrine cell number and neuropilin expression in patients with colorectal adenoma.

PMID 21401950


Previous reports have suggested that the VEGF receptor neuropilin-1 (NRP-1) is expressed in a singly dispersed subpopulation of cells in the normal colonic epithelium, but that expression becomes dysregulated during colorectal carcinogenesis, with higher levels in tumour suggestive of a poor prognosis. We noted that the spatial distribution and morphology if NRP-1 expressing cells resembles that of enteroendocrine cells (EEC) which are altered in response to disease state including cancer and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). We have shown that NRP-1 is down-regulated by butyrate in colon cancer cell lines in vitro and we hypothesized that butyrate produced in the lumen would have an analogous effect on the colon mucosa in vivo. Therefore we sought to investigate whether NRP-1 is expressed in EEC and how NRP-1 and EEC respond to butyrate and other short-chain fatty acids (SCFA - principally acetate and propionate). Additionally we sought to assess whether there is a field effect around adenomas. Biopsies were collected at the mid-sigmoid, at the adenoma and at the contralateral wall (field) of 28 subjects during endoscopy. Samples were fixed for IHC and stained for either NRP-1 or for chromogranin A (CgA), a marker of EEC. Stool sampling was undertaken to assess individuals' butyrate, acetate and propionate levels. NRP-1 expression was inversely related to SCFA concentration at the colon landmark (mid-sigmoid), but expression was lower and not related to SCFA concentration at the field. Likewise CgA+ cell number was also inversely related to SCFA at the landmark, but was lower and unresponsive at the field. Crypt cellularity was unaltered by field effect. A colocalisation analysis showed only a small subset of NRP-1 localised with CgA. Adenomas showed extensive, weaker staining for NRP-1 which contrastingly correlated positively with butyrate level. Field effects cause this relationship to be lost. Adenoma tissue shows dissociation of the co-regulation of NRP-1 and EEC. NRP-1 is inversely associated with levels of butyrate and other SCFA in vivo and is expressed in a subset of CgA expressing cells. EEC number is related to butyrate level in the same way.