Colorectal cancer mutational profiles correlate with defined microbial communities in the tumor microenvironment

Michael B. Burns, Emmanuel Montassier, Juan Abrahante, Sambhawa Priya, David E. Niccum, Alexander Khoruts, Timothy K. Starr, Dan Knights, Ran Blekhman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Variation in the gut microbiome has been linked to colorectal cancer (CRC), as well as to host genetic variation. However, we do not know whether, in addition to baseline host genetics, somatic mutational profiles in CRC tumors interact with the surrounding tumor microbiome, and if so, whether these changes can be used to understand microbe-host interactions with potential functional biological relevance. Here, we characterized the association between CRC microbial communities and tumor mutations using microbiome profiling and whole-exome sequencing in 44 pairs of tumors and matched normal tissues. We found statistically significant associations between loss-of-function mutations in tumor genes and shifts in the abundances of specific sets of bacterial taxa, suggestive of potential functional interaction. This correlation allows us to statistically predict interactions between loss-of-function tumor mutations in cancer-related genes and pathways, including MAPK and Wnt signaling, solely based on the composition of the microbiome. In conclusion, our study shows that CRC microbiomes are correlated with tumor mutational profiles, pointing towards possible mechanisms of molecular interaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1007376
JournalPLoS genetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Burns et al.


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