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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2012 Jan 15;302(2):G195-206. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00209.2011. Epub 2011 Nov 3.

Tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 functions as a tumor suppressor.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, Department of Pediatrics, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) is a key player in inflammatory bowel disease and has been variably associated with carcinogenesis, but details of the cross talk between inflammatory and tumorigenic pathways remain incompletely understood. It has been shown that, in C57BL/6 mice, signaling via TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1) is protective from injury and inflammation in experimental colitis. Therefore, we hypothesized that loss of TNFR1 signaling would confer increased risk of developing colitis-associated carcinoma. Using three models of murine tumorigenesis based on repeated bouts of inflammation or systemic tumor initiator, we sought to determine the roles of TNF and TNFR1 with regard to neoplastic transformation in the colon in wild-type (WT), TNFR1 knockout (R1KO), and TNF knockout (TNFKO) mice. We found R1KO animals to have more severe disease, as defined by weight loss, hematochezia, and histology. TNFKO mice demonstrated less weight loss but were consistently smaller, and rates and duration of hematochezia were comparable to WT mice. Histological inflammation scores were higher and neoplastic lesions occurred more frequently and earlier in R1KO mice. Apoptosis is not affected in R1KO mice although epithelial proliferation following injury is more ardent even before tumorigenesis is apparent. Lastly, there is earlier and more intense expression of activated β-catenin in these mice, implying a connection between TNFR1 and Wnt signaling. Taken together, these findings show that in the context of colitis-associated carcinogenesis TNFR1 functions as a tumor suppressor, exerting this effect not via apoptosis but by modulating activation of β-catenin and controlling epithelial proliferation.

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