Microbe-Mucus Interface in the Pathogenesis of Colorectal Cancer

Coleman, O. I., Haller, D. (2021). Cancers (Basel) 13, 616.

DOI:10.3390/cancers13040616(link is external)


Overlying gastrointestinal epithelial cells is the transparent mucus layer that separates the lumen from the host. The dynamic mucus layer serves to lubricate the mucosal surface, to protect underlying epithelial cells, and as a transport medium between luminal contents and epithelial cells. Furthermore, it provides a habitat for commensal bacteria and signals to the underlying immune system. Mucins are highly glycosylated proteins, and their glycocode is tissue-specific and closely linked to the resident microbiota. Aberrant mucin expression and glycosylation are linked to chronic inflammation and gastrointestinal cancers, including colorectal cancer (CRC). Aberrant mucus production compromises the mucus layer and allows bacteria to come into close contact with the intestinal epithelium, potentially triggering unfavorable host responses and the subsequent development of tumors. Here, we review our current understanding of the interaction between the intestinal microbiota and mucus in healthy and CRC subjects. Deep knowledge of the intricate mechanisms of microbe–mucus interactions may contribute to the development of novel treatment strategies for CRC, in which a dysfunctional mucus layer is observed.