Folate transport gene inactivation in mice increases sensitivity to colon carcinogenesis.
Low dietary folate intake is associated with an increased risk for colon cancer; however, relevant genetic animal models are lacking. We therefore investigated the effect of targeted ablation of two folate transport genes, folate binding protein 1 (Folbp1) and reduced folate carrier 1 (RFC1), on folate homeostasis to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of folate action on colonocyte cell proliferation, gene expression, and colon carcinogenesis. Targeted deletion of Folbp1 (Folbp1(+/-) and Folbp1(-/-)) significantly reduced (P < 0.05) colonic Folbp1 mRNA, colonic mucosa, and plasma folate concentration. In contrast, subtle changes in folate homeostasis resulted from targeted deletion of RFC1 (RFC1(+/-)). These animals had reduced (P < 0.05) colonic RFC1 mRNA and exhibited a 2-fold reduction in the plasma S-adenosylmethionine/S-adenosylhomocysteine. Folbp1(+/-) and Folbp1(-/-) mice had larger crypts expressed as greater (P < 0.05) numbers of cells per crypt column relative to Folbp1(+/+) mice. Colonic cell proliferation was increased in RFC1(+/-) mice relative to RFC1(+/+) mice. Microarray analysis of colonic mucosa showed distinct changes in gene expression specific to Folbp1 or RFC1 ablation. The effect of folate transporter gene ablation on colon carcinogenesis was evaluated 8 and 38 weeks post-azoxymethane injection in wild-type and heterozygous mice. Relative to RFC1(+/+) mice, RFC1(+/-) mice developed increased (P < 0.05) numbers of aberrant crypt foci at 8 weeks. At 38 weeks, RFC1(+/-) mice developed local inflammatory lesions with or without epithelial dysplasia as well as adenocarcinomas, which were larger relative to RFC1(+/+) mice. In contrast, Folbp1(+/-) mice developed 4-fold (P < 0.05) more lesions relative to Folbp1(+/+) mice. In conclusion, Folbp1 and RFC1 genetically modified mice exhibit distinct changes in colonocyte phenotype and therefore have utility as models to examine the role of folate homeostasis in colon cancer development.