Colonic mucosal and exfoliome transcriptomic profiling and fecal microbiome response to a flaxseed lignan extract intervention in humans

Johanna W. Lampe, Eunji Kim, Lisa Levy, Laurie A. Davidson, Jennifer S. Goldsby, Fayth L. Miles, Sandi L. Navarro, Timothy W. Randolph, Ni Zhao, Ivan Ivanov, Andrew M. Kaz, Christopher Damman, David M. Hockenbery, Meredith A.J. Hullar, Robert S. Chapkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Microbial metabolism of lignans from high-fiber plant foods produces bioactive enterolignans, such as enterolactone (ENL) and enterodiol (END). Enterolignan exposure influences cellular pathways important to cancer risk and is associated with reduced colon tumorigenesis in animal models and lower colorectal cancer risk in humans. Objectives: The aim of this study was to test the effects of a flaxseed lignan supplement (50 mg secoisolariciresinol diglucoside/d) compared with placebo on host gene expression in colon biopsies and exfoliated colonocyte RNA in feces and fecal microbial community composition, and to compare responses in relation to ENL excretion. Methods: We conducted a 2-period randomized, crossover intervention in 42 healthy men and women (20-45 y). We used RNA-seq to measure differentially expressed (DE) genes in colonic mucosa and fecal exfoliated cells through the use of edgeR and functional analysis with Ingenuity Pathway Analysis. We used 16S ribosomal RNA gene (V1-V3) analysis to characterize the fecal microbiome, and measured END and ENL in 24-h urine samples by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Results: We detected 32 DE genes (false discovery rate <0.05) in the exfoliome, but none in the mucosal biopsies, in response to 60 d of lignan supplement compared with placebo. Statistically significant associations were detected between ENL excretion and fecal microbiome measured at baseline and at the end of the intervention periods. Further, we detected DE genes in colonic mucosa and exfoliome between low- and high-ENL excreters. Analysis of biopsy samples indicated that several anti-inflammatory upstream regulators, including transforming growth factor β and interleukin 10 receptor, were suppressed in low-ENL excreters. Complementary analyses in exfoliated cells also suggested that low-ENL excreters may be predisposed to proinflammatory cellular events due to upregulation of nuclear transcription factor κB and NOS2, and an inhibition of the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γnetwork. Conclusions: These results suggest that ENL or other activities of the associated gut microbial consortia may modulate response to a dietary lignan intervention. This has important implications for dietary recommendations and chemoprevention strategies. This study was registered at as NCT01619020.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-390
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019


  • colon
  • enterolactone
  • fecal microbiome
  • gene expression
  • human intervention
  • lignan
  • secoisolariciresinol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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