The role of folate one-carbon metabolism in colorectal cancer development is controversial, with nutritional intervention studies producing conflicting results. It has been reported that ApcMin/+ mice maintained on a diet deficient in the methyl donors folic acid, methionine, choline, and vitamin B12, and supplemented with homocysteine, show a greater than 95% reduction in intestinal tumor development. The present study extends these findings and shows that tumor protection afforded by dietary methyl donor deficiency (MDD) is long-lasting. After 11 weeks of MDD, tumor protection persisted for at least an additional 7 weeks of methyl donor repletion (22.2 ± 3.5 vs. 70.2 ± 4.6 tumors per mouse; P < 0.01). Sustained tumor protection was associated with a reduction in intestinal crypt length (26%, P < 0.01), crypt cell division and crypt fission, and an increase in apoptosis of both normal crypts and tumors (4.9- and 3.2-fold, respectively, P < 0.01). MDD also caused a significant reduction in the number of Dclk1-positive cells in the intestine (62%, P < 0.01), a long-lived crypt cell with cancer stem cell potential. Several undesirable effects associated with methyl donor restriction (e.g., reduced body weight gain) were shown to be transient and readily reversible following methyl donor repletion. Taken together, these results indicate that even temporary dietary methyl donor restriction in adenoma-prone mice can induce persistent changes to the intestinal epithelium and provide long-lasting tumor protection. These data also suggest that transient reductions in dietary methyl donor consumption should be considered when studying the impact of folate on colon cancer risk in humans. Cancer Prev Res; 9(10); 1–9. ©2016 AACR.
Note: Supplementary data for this article are available at Cancer Prevention Research Online (http://cancerprevres.aacrjournals.org/).
- Received February 12, 2016.
- Revision received July 29, 2016.
- Accepted August 1, 2016.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.