Background&Aims: GPR120 (encoded by FFAR4 gene) is a receptor for long chain fatty acids, activated by ω-3 PUFAs, and expressed in many cell types. Its role in the context of colorectal cancer (CRC) is still puzzling with many controversial evidences. Here, we explored the involvement of epithelial GPR120 in the CRC development.
Methods: Both in vitro and in vivo experiments were conducted to mimic the conditional deletion of the receptor from gut epithelium. Intestinal permeability and integrity of mucus layer were assessed by using Evans blue dye and immunofluorescence for MUC-2 protein, respectively. Microbiota composition, presence of lipid mediators and short chain fatty acids were analyzed in the stools of conditional GPR120 and wild type (WT) mice. Incidence and grade of tumors were evaluated in all groups of mice before and after colitis-associated cancer. Finally, GPR120 expression was analyzed in 9 human normal tissues, 9 adenomas, and 17 primary adenocarcinomas.
Results: Our work for the first time highlight the role of the receptor in the progression of colorectal cancer. We observed that the loss of epithelial GPR120 in the gut results into increased intestinal permeability, microbiota translocation and dysbiosis, which turns into hyperproliferation of epithelial cells, likely through the activation of β -catenin signaling. Therefore, the loss of GPR120 represents an early event of CRC, but avoid its progression as invasive cancer.
Conclusion: these results demonstrate that the epithelial GPR120 receptor is essential to maintain the mucosal barrier integrity and to prevent CRC developing. Therefore, our data pave the way to GPR120 as an useful marker for the phenotypic characterization of CRC lesions and as new potential target for CRC prevention.