Distinct transcriptional changes and epithelial-stromal interactions are altered in early-stage colon cancer development

Allen Mo, Stephen Jackson, Kamini Varma, Alan Carpino, Charles Giardina, Thomas J. Devers, Daniel W. Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Although the progression of mutated colonic cells is dependent upon interactions between the initiated epithelium and surrounding stroma, the nature of these interactions is poorly understood. Here, the development of an ultrasensitive laser capture microdissection (LCM)/RNA-seq approach for studying the epithelial and stromal compartments of aberrant crypt foci (ACF) is described. ACF are the earliest identifiable preneoplastic lesion found within the human colon and are detected using highdefinition endoscopy with contrast dye spray. The current analysis focused on the epithelium of ACF with somatic mutations to either KRAS, BRAF, or APC, and expression patterns compared with normal mucosa from each patient. By comparing gene expression patterns among groups, an increase in a number of proinflammatory NF-kB target genes was identified that was specific to ACF epithelium, including TIMP1, RELA, and RELB. Distinct transcriptional changes associated with each somatic mutation were observed and a subset of ACF display BRAFV600E-mediated senescence-associated transcriptome characterized by increased expression of CDKN2A. Finally, LCM-captured ACF-associated stroma was found to be transcriptionally distinct from normal-appearing stroma, with an upregulation of genes related to immune cell infiltration and fibroblast activation. Immunofluorescence confirmed increased CD3+ T cells within the stromal microenvironment of ACF and an abundance of activated fibroblasts. Collectively, these results provide new insight into the cellular interplay that occurs at the earliest stages of colonic neoplasia, highlighting the important role of NF-κB, activated stromal fibroblasts, and lymphocyte infiltration. Implications: Fibroblasts and immune cells in the stromal microenvironment play an important role during the earliest stages of colon carcinogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795-804
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


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