Organoids and organs-on-chips: Insights into human gut-microbe interactions

The important and diverse roles of the gut microbiota in human health and disease are increasingly recognized. The difficulty of inferring causation from metagenomic microbiome sequencing studies and from mouse-human interspecies differences has prompted the development of sophisticated in vitro models of human gut-microbe interactions. Here, we review recent advances in the co-culture of microbes with intestinal and colonic epithelia, comparing the rapidly developing fields of organoids and organs-on-chips with other standard models. We describe how specific individual processes by which microbes and epithelia interact can be recapitulated in vitro. Using examples of bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, we highlight the advantages of each culture model and discuss current trends and future possibilities to build more complex co-cultures.

Journal Cell Host & Microbe
Authors Jens Puschhof et al
DATE 09 June 2021
NOTUM from Apc-mutant cells biases clonal competition to initiate cancer

The tumour suppressor APC is the most commonly mutated gene in colorectal cancer. Loss of Apc in intestinal stem cells drives the formation of adenomas in mice via increased WNT signalling, but reduced secretion of WNT ligands increases the ability of Apc-mutant intestinal stem cells to colonize a crypt (known as fixation). Here we investigated how Apc-mutant cells gain a clonal advantage over wild-type counterparts to achieve fixation. We found that Apc-mutant cells are enriched for transcripts that encode several secreted WNT antagonists, with Notum being the most highly expressed. Conditioned medium from Apc-mutant cells suppressed the growth of wild-type organoids in a NOTUM-dependent manner. Furthermore, NOTUM-secreting Apc-mutant clones actively inhibited the proliferation of surrounding wild-type crypt cells and drove their differentiation, thereby outcompeting crypt cells from the niche. Genetic or pharmacological inhibition of NOTUM abrogated the ability of Apc-mutant cells to expand and form intestinal adenomas. We identify NOTUM as a key mediator during the early stages of mutation fixation that can be targeted to restore wild-type cell competitiveness and provide preventative strategies for people at a high risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Journal Nature
Authors Dustin Flanagan et al
DATE 03 June 2021
SynNotch CAR circuits enhance solid tumor recognition and promote persistent antitumor activity in mouse models

The first clinically approved engineered chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies are remarkably effective in a subset of hematological malignancies with few therapeutic options. Although these clinical successes have been exciting, CAR T cells have hit roadblocks in solid tumors that include the lack of highly tumor-specific antigens to target, opening up the possibility of life-threatening “on-target/off-tumor” toxicities, and problems with T cell entry into solid tumor and persistent activity in suppressive tumor microenvironments. Here, we improve the specificity and persistent antitumor activity of therapeutic T cells with synthetic Notch (synNotch) CAR circuits. We identify alkaline phosphatase placental-like 2 (ALPPL2) as a tumor-specific antigen expressed in a spectrum of solid tumors, including mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. ALPPL2 can act as a sole target for CAR therapy or be combined with tumor-associated antigens such as melanoma cell adhesion molecule (MCAM), mesothelin, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) in synNotch CAR combinatorial antigen circuits. SynNotch CAR T cells display superior control of tumor burden when compared to T cells constitutively expressing a CAR targeting the same antigens in mouse models of human mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. This was achieved by preventing CAR-mediated tonic signaling through synNotch-controlled expression, allowing T cells to maintain a long-lived memory and non-exhausted phenotype. Collectively, we establish ALPPL2 as a clinically viable cell therapy target for multiple solid tumors and demonstrate the multifaceted therapeutic benefits of synNotch CAR T cells.

Team STORMing Cancer
Journal Science Translational Medicine
Authors Axel Hyrenius-Wittsten et al
DATE 28 April 2021
Aspirin Modulation of the Colorectal Cancer-Associated Microbe Fusobacterium nucleatum

Aspirin is a chemopreventive agent for colorectal adenoma and cancer (CRC) that, like many drugs inclusive of chemotherapeutics, has been investigated for its effects on bacterial growth and virulence gene expression. Given the evolving recognition of the roles for bacteria in CRC, in this work, we investigate the effects of aspirin with a focus on one oncomicrobe—Fusobacterium nucleatum. We show that aspirin and its primary metabolite salicylic acid alter F. nucleatum strain Fn7-1 growth in culture and that aspirin can effectively kill both actively growing and stationary Fn7-1. We also demonstrate that, at levels that do not inhibit growth, aspirin influences Fn7-1 gene expression. To assess whether aspirin modulation of F. nucleatum may be relevant in vivo, we use the ApcMin/1 mouse intestinal tumor model in which Fn7-1 is orally inoculated daily to reveal that aspirin-supplemented chow is sufficient to inhibit F. nucleatum-potentiated colonic tumorigenesis. We expand our characterization of aspirin sensitivity across other F. nucleatum strains, including those isolated from human CRC tissues, as well as other CRC-associated microbes, enterotoxigenic Bacteroides fragilis, and colibactin-producing Escherichia coli. Finally, we determine that individuals who use aspirin daily have lower fusobacterial abundance in colon adenoma tissues, as determined by quantitative PCR performed on adenoma DNA. Together, our data support that aspirin has direct antibiotic activity against F. nucleatum strains and suggest that consideration of the potential effects of aspirin on the microbiome holds promise in optimizing risk-benefit assessments for use of aspirin in CRC prevention and management

Journal mBio Journal
Authors Caitlin Brennan et al
DATE 16 April 2021
Landscapes of cellular phenotypic diversity in breast cancer xenografts and their impact on drug response

The heterogeneity of breast cancer plays a major role in drug response and resistance and has been extensively characterized at the genomic level. Here, a single-cell breast cancer mass cytometry (BCMC) panel is optimized to identify cell phenotypes and their oncogenic signalling states in a biobank of patient-derived tumour xenograft (PDTX) models representing the diversity of human breast cancer. The BCMC panel identifies 13 cellular phenotypes (11 human and 2 murine), associated with both breast cancer subtypes and specific genomic features. Pre-treatment cellular phenotypic composition is a determinant of response to anticancer therapies. Single-cell profiling also reveals drug-induced cellular phenotypic dynamics, unravelling previously unnoticed intra-tumour response diversity. The comprehensive view of the landscapes of cellular phenotypic heterogeneity in PDTXs uncovered by the BCMC panel, which is mirrored in primary human tumours, has profound implications for understanding and predicting therapy response and resistance.

Journal Nature Communications
Authors Dimitra Georgopoulou et al
DATE 31 March 2021