Heme-oxygenase-1 production by intestinal CX3CR1+ macrophages helps to resolve inflammation and prevents carcinogenesis

Giulia Marelli, Marco Erreni, Achille Anselmo, Valentina Taverniti, Simone Guglielmetti, Alberto Mantovani, Paola Allavena

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


CX3CR1+ macrophages in the intestinal lamina propria contribute to gut homeostasis through the immunomodulatory interleukin IL10, but there is little knowledge on how these cells or the CX3CR1 receptor may affect colorectal carcinogenesis. In this study, we show that CX3CR1-deficient mice fail to resolve gut inflammation despite high production of IL10 and have increased colitis and adenomatous polyps in chemical and genetic models of colon carcinogenesis. Mechanistically, CX3CL1-mediated engagement of the CX3CR1 receptor induced upregulation of heme-oxygenase-1 (HMOX-1), an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory enzyme. CX3CR1-deficient mice exhibited significantly lower expression of HMOX-1 in their adenomatous colon tissues. Combining LPS and CX3CL1 displayed a strong synergistic effect in vitro, but HMOX-1 levels were significantly lower in KO macrophages. Cohousing of wild-type and CX3CR1-/- mice during the AOM/DSS treatment attenuated disease severity in CX3CR1-/- mice, indicating the importance of the microbiome, but did not fully reinstate HMOX-1 levels and did not abolish polyp formation. In contrast, pharmacologic induction of HMOX-1 in vivo by cobalt protoporphyrin-IX treatment eradicated intestinal inflammation and fully protected KO mice from carcinogenesis. Taken together, our results establish an essential role for the receptor CX3CR1 in gut macrophages in resolving inflammation in the intestine, where it helps protects against colitis-associated cancer by regulating HMOX-1 expression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4472-4485
Number of pages14
JournalCancer Research
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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