Certain Escherichia coli strains residing in the human gut produce colibactin, a small-molecule genotoxin implicated in colorectal cancer pathogenesis. However, colibactin’s chemical structure and the molecular mechanism underlying its genotoxic effects have remained unknown for more than a decade. Here we combine an untargeted DNA adductomics approach with chemical synthesis to identify and characterize a covalent DNA modification from human cell lines treated with colibactin-producing E. coli. Our data establish that colibactin alkylates DNA with an unusual electrophilic cyclopropane. We show that this metabolite is formed in mice colonized by colibactin-producing E. coli and is likely derived from an initially formed, unstable colibactin-DNA adduct. Our findings reveal a potential biomarker for colibactin exposure and provide mechanistic insights into how a gut microbe may contribute to colorectal carcinogenesis.
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PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't