Serine Palmitoyltransferase Controls Stemness of Intestinal Progenitors

Li Y, Chaurasia B, Kaddai V, Wilkerson JL, Alan Maschek J, Cox J, Wei P, Bensard C, Meikle PJ, Clevers H, Shayman JA, Hirabayashi Y, Holland WL, Rutter J, Summers SA.
Preprint from
4 December 2020


Cancers of the gastrointestinal tract including esophageal adenocarcinomas, colorectal cancers, and cancers of the gastric cardia are common comorbidities of obesity. Excessive delivery of macronutrients to the cells lining the gut can increase one’s risk for these cancer by inducing imbalances in the rate of intestinal stem cell proliferation vs. differentiation, which can produce polyps and other aberrant growths. We demonstrate that serine palmitoyltransferase (SPT), which diverts dietary fatty and amino acids into the sphingolipid biosynthesis pathway, is a critical modulator of intestinal stem cell homeostasis. SPT and other enzymes in the biosynthetic pathway are upregulated in human colon tumors. These enzymes produce sphingolipids that serve as pro-stemness signals that stimulate peroxisome-proliferator activated receptor alpha (PPARα)-mediated induction of fatty acid binding protein-1. This increases fatty acid uptake and oxidation and enhances the stemness program. Serine palmitoyltransferase thus serves as a critical link between dietary macronutrients, epithelial regeneration, and cancer risk.