Fecal metabolomic signatures in colorectal adenoma patients are associated with gut microbiota and early events of colorectal cancer pathogenesis

Minsuk Kim, Emily Vogtmann, David A. Ahlquist, Mary E. Devens, John B. Kisiel, William R. Taylor, Bryan A. White, Vanessa L. Hale, Jaeyun Sung, Nicholas Chia, Rashmi Sinha, Jun Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Colorectal adenomas are precancerous lesions of colorectal cancer (CRC) that offer a means of viewing the events key to early CRC development. A number of studies have investigated the changes and roles of gut microbiota in adenoma and carcinoma development, highlighting its impact on carcinogenesis. However, there has been less of a focus on the gut metabolome, which mediates interactions between the host and gut microbes. Here, we investigated metabolomic profiles of stool samples from patients with advanced adenoma (n = 102), matched controls (n = 102), and patients with CRC (n = 36). We found that several classes of bioactive lipids, including polyunsaturated fatty acids, secondary bile acids, and sphingolipids, were elevated in the adenoma patients compared to the controls. Most such metabolites showed directionally consistent changes in the CRC patients, suggesting that those changes may represent early events of carcinogenesis. We also examined gut microbiome-metabolome associations using gut microbiota profiles in these patients. We found remarkably strong overall associations between the microbiome and metabolome data and catalogued a list of robustly correlated pairs of bacterial taxa and metabolomic features which included signatures of adenoma. Our findings highlight the importance of gut metabolites, and potentially their interplay with gut microbes, in the early events of CRC pathogenesis. IMPORTANCE Colorectal adenomas are precursors of CRC. Recently, the gut microbiota, i.e., the collection of microbes residing in our gut, has been recognized as a key player in CRC development. There have been a number of gut microbiota profiling studies for colorectal adenoma and CRC; however, fewer studies have considered the gut metabolome, which serves as the chemical interface between the host and gut microbiota. Here, we conducted a gut metabolome profiling study of colorectal adenoma and CRC and analyzed the metabolomic profiles together with paired microbiota composition profiles. We found several chemical signatures of colorectal adenoma that were associated with some gut microbes and potentially indicative of future CRC. This study highlights potential early-driver metabolites in CRC pathogenesis and guides further targeted experiments and thus provides an important stepping stone toward developing better CRC prevention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere03186-19
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Carcinogenesis
  • Colorectal adenoma
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Metabolomics
  • Microbiome
  • Microbiota

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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