The proliferative-crypt compartment of the intestinal epithelium is enriched in phospholipids and accumulation of phospholipids has been described in colorectal tumors. Here we hypothesize that biliary phospholipid flow could directly contribute to the proliferative power of normal and dysplastic enterocytes. We used Abcb41-1 mice which lack biliary phospholipid secretion. We first show that Abcb41-1 mice are protected against intestinal tumorigenesis. At the molecular level, the transcriptional activity of the nuclear receptor Liver Receptor Homolog-1 (Lrh1) is reduced in Abcb41-1 mice and its re-activation re-establishes a tumor burden comparable to control mice. Feeding Abcb41-1 mice a diet supplemented with phospholipids completely overcomes the intestinal tumor protective phenotype, thus corroborating the hypothesis that the absence of biliary phospholipids and not lack of Abcb4 gene per se is responsible for the protection. In turn, phospholipids cannot re-establish intestinal tumorigenesis in Abcb41-1 mice crossed with mice with intestinal specific ablation of Lrh1, a nuclear hormone receptor that is activates by phospholipids. Our data identify the key role of biliary phospholipids in sustaining intestinal mucosa proliferation and tumor progression through the activation of nuclear receptor Lrh1.
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