Synthesis of multi-omic data and community metabolic models reveals insights into the role of hydrogen sulfide in colon cancer

April 6, 2019

Multi-omic data and genome-scale microbial metabolic models have allowed us to examine microbial communities, community function, and interactions in ways that were not available to us historically. Now, one of our biggest challenges is determining how to integrate data and maximize data potential. Our study demonstrates one way in which to test a hypothesis by combining multi-omic data and community metabolic models. Specifically, we assess hydrogen sulfide production in colorectal cancer based on stool, mucosa, and tissue samples collected on and off the tumor site within the same individuals. 16S rRNA microbial community and abundance data were used to select and inform the metabolic models. We then used MICOM, an open source platform, to track the metabolic flux of hydrogen sulfide through a defined microbial community that either represented on-tumor or off-tumor sample communities. We also performed targeted and untargeted metabolomics, and used the former to quantitatively evaluate our model predictions. A deeper look at the models identified several unexpected but feasible reactions, microbes, and microbial interactions involved in hydrogen sulfide production for which our 16S and metabolomic data could not account. These results will guide future in vitro, in vivo, and in silico tests to establish why hydrogen sulfide production is increased in tumor tissue.