SM Man, Q Zhu, L Zhu, Z Liu, R Karki, A Malik, D Sharma, L Li, RKS Malireddi, P Gurung, G Neale, SR Olsen, RA Carter, DJ McGoldrick, G Wu, D Finkelstein, P Vogel, RJ Gilbertson, T-D Kanneganti
Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Mutations in the innate immune sensor AIM2 are frequently identified in patients with colorectal cancer, but how AIM2 modulates colonic tumorigenesis is unknown. Here, we found that Aim2-deficient mice were hypersusceptible to colonic tumor development. Production of inflammasome-associated cytokines and other inflammatory mediators was largely intact in Aim2-deficient mice; however, intestinal stem cells were prone to uncontrolled proliferation. Aberrant Wnt signaling expanded a population of tumor-initiating stem cells in the absence of AIM2. Susceptibility of Aim2-deficient mice to colorectal tumorigenesis was enhanced by a dysbiotic gut microbiota, which was reduced by reciprocal exchange of gut microbiota with healthy wild-type mice. These findings uncover a synergy between a specific host genetic factor and gut microbiota in determining the susceptibility to colorectal cancer. Therapeutic modulation of AIM2 expression and microbiota has the potential to prevent colorectal cancer.