Epithelial TLR4 Signaling Activates DUOX2 to Induce Microbiota-Driven Tumorigenesis

Ester Fernandez Gimeno, Juan Francisco Burgueño Banús*, Maria T. Abreu, Irina Fernández, julia fritsch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background & aims: Chronic colonic inflammation leads to dysplasia and cancer in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. We have described the critical role of innate immune signaling via Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) in the pathogenesis of dysplasia and cancer. In the current study, we interrogate the intersection of TLR4 signaling, epithelial redox activity, and the microbiota in colitis-associated neoplasia. Methods: Inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer data sets were analyzed for expression of TLR4, dual oxidase 2 (DUOX2), and NADPH oxidase 1 (NOX1). Epithelial production of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) was analyzed in murine colonic epithelial cells and colonoid cultures. Colorectal cancer models were carried out in villin-TLR4 mice, carrying a constitutively active form of TLR4, their littermates, and villin-TLR4 mice backcrossed to DUOXA-knockout mice. The role of the TLR4-shaped microbiota in tumor development was tested in wild-type germ-free mice. Results: Activation of epithelial TLR4 was associated with up-regulation of DUOX2 and NOX1 in inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer. DUOX2 was exquisitely dependent on TLR4 signaling and mediated the production of epithelial H2O2. Epithelial H2O2 was significantly increased in villin-TLR4 mice; TLR4-dependent tumorigenesis required the presence of DUOX2 and a microbiota. Mucosa-associated microbiota transferred from villin-TLR4 mice to wild-type germ-free mice caused increased H2O2 production and tumorigenesis. Conclusions: Increased TLR4 signaling in colitis drives expression of DUOX2 and epithelial production of H2O2. The local milieu imprints the mucosal microbiota and imbues it with pathogenic properties demonstrated by enhanced epithelial reactive oxygen species and increased development of colitis-associated tumors. The inter-relationship between epithelial reactive oxygen species and tumor-promoting microbiota requires a 2-pronged strategy to reduce the risk of dysplasia in colitis patients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10.1053/j.gastro.2020.10.031
Pages (from-to)797
Number of pages808
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • Colitis-Associated Cancer; Microbiome; NADPH Oxidases; Ulcerative Colitis.


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