Metabolic modeling of host–microbe interactions for therapeutics in colorectal cancer

Prerna Bhalla , Raghunathan Rengaswamy , Devarajan Karunagaran , G. K. Suraishkumar , Swagatika Sahoo , npj Systems Biology and Applications (2022) .


The onset of colorectal cancer (CRC) is often attributed to gut bacterial dysbiosis, and thus gut microbiota are highly relevant in devising treatment strategies. Certain gut microbes, like Enterococcus spp., exhibit remarkable anti-neoplastic and probiotic properties, which can aid in silver nanoparticle (AgNPs) induced reactive oxygen species (ROS)-based CRC treatment. However, the effects of AgNPs on gut microbial metabolism have not been reported thus far. In this study, a detailed systems-level understandingof ROS metabolism in Enterococcus durans (E. durans), a representative gut microbe, was gained using constraint-based modeling, wherein, the critical association between ROS and folate metabolism was established. Experimental studies involving low AgNP concentration treatment of E. durans cultures confirmed these modeling predictions (an increased extracellular folate concentration by 52%, at the 9th h of microbial growth, was observed). Besides, the computational studies established various metabolic pathways involving amino acids, energy metabolites, nucleotides, and SCFAs as the key players in elevating folate levels on ROS exposure. The anti-cancer potential of E. durans was also studied through MTT analysis of HCT 116 cells treated with microbial culture (AgNP treated) supernatant. A decrease in cell viability by 19% implicated the role of microbial metabolites (primarily folate) in causing cell death. The genome-scale modeling approach was then extended to extensively model CRC metabolism, as well as CRC–E. durans interactions in the context of CRC treatment, using tissue-specific metabolic models of CRC and healthy colon. These findings on further validation can facilitate the development of robust and effective cancer therapy.