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Stem Cell Impairment At The Host-Microbiota Interface In Colorectal Cancer

Marinella Marzano, Bruno Fosso, Elisabetta Piancone, Giuseppe Defazio, Graziano Pesole, Mariangela De Robertis

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Colorectal cancer (CRC) initiation is believed to result from the conversion of normal intestinal stem cells (ISCs) into cancer stem cells (CSCs), also known as tumor-initiating cells (TICs). Hence, CRC evolves through the multiple acquisition of well-established genetic and epigenetic alterations with an adenoma-carcinoma sequence progression. Unlike other stem cells elsewhere in the body, ISCs cohabit with the intestinal microbiota, which consists of a diverse community of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The gut microbiota communicates closely with ISCs and mounting evidence suggests that there is significant crosstalk between host and microbiota at the ISC niche level. Metagenomic analyses have demonstrated that the host-microbiota mutually beneficial symbiosis existing under physiologic conditions is lost during a state of pathological microbial imbalance due to the alteration of microbiota composition (dysbiosis) and/or the genetic susceptibility of the host. The complex interaction between CRC and microbiota is at the forefront of the current CRC research, and there is growing attention on a possible role of the gut microbiome in the pathogenesis of CRC through ISC niche impairment. Here we primarily review the most recent findings on the molecular mechanism underlying the complex interplay between gut microbiota and ISCs, revealing a possible key role of microbiota in the aberrant reprogramming of CSCs in the initiation of CRC. We also discuss recent advances in OMICS approaches and single-cell analyses to explore the relationship between gut microbiota and ISC/CSC niche biology leading to a desirable implementation of the current precision medicine approaches.