Integrated In Vitro and In Silico Modeling Delineates the Molecular Effects of a Synbiotic Regimen on Colorectal-Cancer-Derived Cells

Kacy Greenhalgh, Javier Ramiro-Garcia, Almut Heinken, Pit Ullmann, Tamara Bintener, Maria Pires Pacheco, Joanna Baginska, Pranjul Shah, Audrey Frachet, Rashi Halder, Joëlle V. Fritz, Thomas Sauter, Ines Thiele, Serge Haan, Elisabeth Letellier, Paul Wilmes*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


By modulating the human gut microbiome, prebiotics and probiotics (combinations of which are called synbiotics) may be used to treat diseases such as colorectal cancer (CRC). Methodological limitations have prevented determining the potential combinatorial mechanisms of action of such regimens. We expanded our HuMiX gut-on-a-chip model to co-culture CRC-derived epithelial cells with a model probiotic under a simulated prebiotic regimen, and we integrated the multi-omic results with in silico metabolic modeling. In contrast to individual prebiotic or probiotic treatments, the synbiotic regimen caused downregulation of genes involved in procarcinogenic pathways and drug resistance, and reduced levels of the oncometabolite lactate. Distinct ratios of organic and short-chain fatty acids were produced during the simulated regimens. Treatment of primary CRC-derived cells with a molecular cocktail reflecting the synbiotic regimen attenuated self-renewal capacity. Our integrated approach demonstrates the potential of modeling for rationally formulating synbiotics-based treatments in the future. The use of specific diets that promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms together with such microorganisms may help treat such diseases as colorectal cancer. Greenhalgh et al. show that one such synbiotic regimen induces downregulation of pro-carcinogenic and drug resistance genes as well as metabolic changes that affect the growth of cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1621-1632.e9
JournalCell Reports
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • colorectal cancer
  • gut microbiome
  • gut-on-a-chip
  • modeling
  • nutritional therapy
  • prebiotic
  • probiotic
  • symbiotic


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